Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"Action is controlled and distinguished by its restraint."

What else with a numbers title could be anything but battle scarred? Cinematic memories, dripping with mud and blood, seep into what remains of your sensibility. The Great War appears in retrospect to have been ruthless and static. Who recalls with a tremor of affection trench foot? Where are the horses? Where is the Light Brigade? Who are the Heavy Brigade? Is Vanessa waiting for the last dance?

In the writers' cubby hole what happens next? To the top table in the war room where the death of recruits is discussed with academic precision and plans emerge like worms from the guts of a dying dog to be dissected by the beak of a hungry hawk? Or along The Paths Of Glory on a suicide mission outside the conformity of an ensemble war film where the enemy lies in wait with its rifles cocked?

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In 1917, the film not the year, action is controlled and distinguished by its restraint. Sam Mendes, famous for his work in the theatre and recently knighted for services to ... and not hopefully in connection with the recent Bond franchise, has wiped the floor at this year's Golden Globes by winning Best Picture and Best Director.

The plot avoids WW1 cliches by going off in a different direction. Lance Corp Blake (Dean Charles Chapman) is given an order to take a message to another regiment who are about to initiate a counter attack in enemy territory. Blake is chosen because his brother belongs to the regiment and will be part of the planned assault which MI6, or its equivalent, have discovered has been compromised and will end in a massacre if it goes ahead. Blake has the opportunity to save his brother's life and those of his regiment if he can get the message through. He has to take an accomplice and so brings his friend Lance Corp Schofield (George MacKay).

The adventure becomes a thriller. Will they make it? Is the enemy in situ, or have they moved on? Schofield takes charge. Does he have the character and the skills to improvise on the hoof? Can they save the regiment? Can they save themselves?

The film looks wonderful and Roger Deakins' cinematography is exquisite. Too much? Can you have a feel good war? Sam thinks so. And The Goldens glow.

Reviewed on: 06 Jan 2020
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1917 packshot
Two British soldiers are sent on a mission through no man's land.
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Director: Sam Mendes

Writer: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns

Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Pip Carter, Andy Apollo, Paul Tinto, Josef Davies, Billy Postlethwaite, Gabriel Akuwudike, Andrew Scott, Spike Leighton, Robert Maaser, Gerran Howell, Adam Hugill

Year: 2019

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, US


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