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Do you remember the 2017 war film, “Dunkirk”? It was a chaotic mess that left us wondering “who were those characters we just met?” Well, Sam Mendes’ (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) new war/drama is the exact opposite of that.

In “1917” we follow two young British privates, Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) during the First World War. They are given the impossible mission to deliver a message across enemy lines to stop 1,600 men from walking into a deadly trap. Among those men is Blake’s brother, which makes the journey to get there that much more intense.

The two soldiers make their way through seemingly empty trenches, tunnels, and bombed-out towns with no one but each other to rely on. Along the way, they encounter other men who have clearly been through their own struggles, a woman hiding in a basement, and some not so friendly Germans. But every new face is a mere acquaintance as the boys are on a ticking clock.

There’s tension between the pair, but also a sense of purpose. Scholfield is unhappy to have been chosen by Blake to tag along on this mission, yet they both know this is for a worthy and life-saving cause.

Mendes gives audiences an immersive cinematic experience, supported by cinematography from Roger Deakins, through the one-take display. It makes you truly feel as if you are right there with the soldiers walking behind every step they take. And as you hold your breath till the final scene, you yourself hope you will make it out alive.

Though the film is exciting and will keep you on the edge of your seat at times, this more of a technical achievement. This is far from an original story; it’s pretty basic. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The filmmakers have taken a simple premise and gone with a “less is more” tactic. This allows for more focus on a beautifully shot film, and a highlight on the actors who give their all emotionally and physically in their spectacular performances. This also gives us the courtesy of understanding who we’re following and character development.

“1917” isn’t a groundbreaking war film, but it is a good one. It’s one you can appreciate and hooks you in from the start. Be sure to watch this one on the big screen!

Rating: 4/5

“1917” opens in Dallas and Plano on Christmas Day and opens in wide release on January 10, 2020.


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