by Ian Morton
Set during the events of World War 1, the film opens in the lush green fields of Northern France. When Lance Corporals, Blake and Schofield are summoned by the general, the two are ordered over enemy lines in a bid to halt an impending ally strike from falling into a trap. Given 24 hours to get to their destination, it’s a race against time in an effort to save a small battalion from certain death.
Told over the course of several hours, the film is framed as a series of long, one shot takes. Easily one of the most breathtaking films you will see at the cinema, Cinematographer, Roger Deakins, proves once again to be the master of his art, placing the camera in just the right place, at just the right time, capturing not only the horror of the events taking place, but also the blissful beauty of where the war is fought.
It truly is a piece of technical mastery, pulling you to ground level and making you feel a part of the action. The spiraling set pieces set in real time offer a certain cadence to the action that few war films manage to capture. Authentic film making at its finest!
But what sets the film up for success also appears to be its downfall. By following events in real time (or as much as possible) and focusing on 2 soldiers, the story is shackled to a plot that’s been stretched to fit a 2 hour run time. In order to get as much out of it as possible, the film quickly descends into a tick box exercise of war movie tropes; one on one shootouts in an abandoned town – tick, run into some locals – tick, come across an ally unit – tick. It’s all very manufactured, predictable and ultimately difficult to connect with.
Somewhere in here, there is a succinct short film that screams to be told. Lost in amongst a checklist of war, 1917 is unfortunately a film obsessed with technique but lacking in plot. It certainly MUST be seen on the biggest and loudest screen possible, but one that will struggle to make the DVD pile!
1917 is out in cinemas right now!!
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