Whether 1917 is a great film will take some time to determine. I can only say that director Sam Mendes has made a very good war film. And I would caution my readers that this is a war film, not an action film. If you go to see it and expect bang-bang-shoot-’em-up or a superhero movie, this one is not for you.
If you are looking for a good film about the realities of war, 1917 does that, and does it with six stars. If ever there was a war that was hell, it was World War I. The war has been going on for almost three years, and 1917 is not all quiet on the western front. At least, not in the trenches where men fight with the rats over food.
A battalion of 1600 British troops men are planning on pursuing the Germans the next morning as they retreat. But headquarters behind the lines have intelligence that it’s a trap. Unfortunately there is radio silence and the British cannot inform the advance company.
The British general sends two corporals, Schofield and Blake, on a mission to hand-deliver a message, warning the Dev Regiment of the trap. They have to cross the no-man’s land between the British and the German trenches, then make their way through the abandoned German trenches and through a town before the reach their comrades. They have less than twenty-four hours. And to emphasize the urgency, Blake’s brother is an officer with the Regiment.
In what could have been a boring slog of a journey, Mendes direction, Roger Deakens’ cinematography, the script by Krysty Wilson-Cairns and Sam Mendes, and Thomas Newman score heighten the tension again and again and make this film well-worth the two hours of viewing. There may be Germans ready to take the two down. As they make their way through a landscape strewn with the ravages of war, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for something to happen.
It has been said that combat brings out the best, and the worst, in men and women. And 1917 shows how true that can be. Schofield and Blake are two ordinary guys who swallow hard and face the unknown with courage. At the end of the movie, I was reminded of the Scripture that says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Schofield and Blake have shown that kind of love.
If there is a better film this year, I’m not sure what it would be. As for me, I give 1917 a big thumbs up and six out of five stars.