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A Technical Masterpiece

6 January

1917, releasing January 9th

Academy Award-Winning Director Sam Mendes returns with what can only be described as a cinematic masterpiece, a film that delivers incredible visual spectacle yet distils intimate emotional resonance within a timeless story of the ferocity of war and sanctity of life.

Penned as a dedication to Mendes’ Grandfather, 1917 follows two young British soldiers in the First World War, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) who are given the insurmountable task of crossing enemy lines to deliver a message that will stop an impending attack and save hundreds of soldiers’ lives.

The film cannot be discussed without paying attention to its technical achievements. With the presence of veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins (BLADE RUNNER 2049) and editor Lee Smith (DUNKIRK) the film has been constructed to feel like one long unbroken shot. This technique creates an unrelenting spectacle and, when tapered with meticulous production design, the viewer becomes utterly immersed, viscerally experiencing each harrowing moment as it unfolds. It’s truly a marvel of contemporary cinema, utilising visual techniques often gluttonized by other big-budget counterparts, yet remaining laser-focused with Mendes’ incisive direction, delivering incredible moments that dramatically enhance the story.

Technical achievements aside, the real success of this film is how Mendes personalises the story through the two young leads. Schofield and Blake perfectly embody the innocence of youth fighting in a war of misplaced patriotism. Exemplified by moments of human triumph in adversity including, quite poetically, a break in warfare where the troops stop and listen to a lone soldier singing, Mendes slows the operatic story to convey the vitality of the human spirit.

Further thematic musings of war are personified by a strong supporting cast. Colin Firth, playing a ranking admiral who tasks the duo’s mission, shares a glance at one point that conveys with near certainty how the two will not return; an older generation’s disregard of young life given a greater cause. So too does Mark Strong’s character come to the aid of Schofield and bestows wise words of brotherhood over victory as well as Benedict Cumberbatch’s short and harrowing performance, showcasing the parasitic nature of war and the aching for resolution.

1917 is meticulously crafted, conveying a devotion to life and beauty and immersing it in incredible feats of scale and destruction. Bombs crush and bullets whiz, tension is used prolifically and unrelentingly, catapulting the story and dragging the audience along for the ride. The spectacle of this film is met harmoniously with attention to character and story, yielding a piece of cinema that comes along only ever so often.


Session Times for 1917

This blog post was written by Blake Gamble.

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