Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong
Release Date: March 24, 2020
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 10/10
Disc Rating: 8.5/10
Sam Mendes, the Oscar®-winning director of Skyfall, Spectre and American Beauty, brings his singular vision to this World War I epic. At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic’s George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman), are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.
Acclaimed filmmaker Sam Mendes brings us a World War I film unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. ‘1917’ tells the story of two young British soldiers who at the height of WWI are tasked with the challenging mission of making their way across enemy lines and through uncertain enemy territory without any contact or backup, all in a race against time to pass along an order to cancel a planned attack that is likely to spell certain doom for the soldiers present (one of which also happens to be the brother of one of the young men) if they are stopped or unable to make it in time.
Directed by noteworthy filmmaker Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Skyfall) from a screenplay that he also co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (TV’s Penny Dreadful), Mendes does a phenomenal job at the helm of ‘1917’ guiding along this touching and intense journey with passion and care every step of the way. The film also owes plenty of credit to the talented folks that make up the cast which includes George MacKay (TV’s 11.22.63), Dean-Charles Chapman (TV’s Game of Thrones), Mark Strong (Shazam!), Andrew Scott (Spectre), Richard Madden (Rocketman), Colin Firth (Mary Poppins Returns) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Avengers: Infinity War) along with more, nearly all offering highly capable performances in each of their respective roles, especially our two leads who are both quite impressive.
‘1917’ is an absolute masterpiece and a war film that isn’t likely to be forgotten down the road. It’s a remarkable tale of courage, danger and perseverance amidst the unlikeliest of odds that’s captured in a unique and powerful manner that allows the viewer to be pulled into the journey with these brave young men. As opposed to following the more common pattern of jumping from various characters throughout, ‘1917’ instead brilliantly opts for solely following these two men along their course. Never cutting away from a scene or shifting to another location, the film’s entirety keeps the cameras attached to their mission alone and therefore creating an unflinching and truly unique take on the war experience; every person they encounter, we encounter along with them, just as we along with the soldiers are uncertain of the shadowy character in the distance or whether he’s friend or foe until that specific moment when he makes a move. It’s a remarkable experience unlike anything ever attempted in the genre and the payoff of it only exceeds expectations. It also benefits immensely from the slower, yet always painfully tense aura that instead of concentrating more on the battles and more populated events and the carnage that accompanies it, instead provides far more focus on the emotion and uncertainty as well as the bond these individuals share which is equally important but not as commonly the key focus. I can’t possibly encourage everyone strongly enough to make a real point of giving ‘1917’ a shot if you haven’t yet had the pleasure. It’s nothing short of phenomenal and a film that’s definitely not to be missed.
Overall, ‘1917’ is a remarkable piece of cinema and a war film unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. It’s a stunning and expertly crafted tale of courage and hope that’s sure to be recognized as one of the greatest entries in the genre. ‘1917’ easily earns my highest possible recommendation. It’s an absolute treat of a war film and a phenomenal piece of filmmaking as a whole. This is an unforgettable masterpiece that you won’t even want to consider overlooking and you’ll almost certainly be thrilled that you decided to give it a chance if you were initially on the fence about it. At the very least it should have no trouble whatsoever proving well worth a couple hours of your time and the price of a rental and many of you will probably find yourselves also wanting to purchase a copy at some point.
The Blu-ray release of ‘1917’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation with the film’s original 2.39:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks magnificent and provides a smooth, sharp and gorgeously detailed presentation from start to finish with no noticeable faults or problems to be uncovered throughout. It holds up admirably even during the darkly lit, fast moving and/or heavily populated sequences, never causing anything that might be occurring onscreen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a wonderful high definition video presentation from Universal that should more than satisfy the film’s fans as well as first time viewers.
The Blu-ray release features a Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 channel compatible) soundtrack. Please note that this review pertains solely to the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio presentation. This multichannel soundtrack makes a marvelous compliment to the onscreen tension and excitement, serving up a clean, crisp and often quite aggressive audio presentation throughout. It repeatedly embraces all seven available channels in order to add to the uncertain atmosphere, while sending bullets, nature elements and bits of dialogue along with more throughout the various speakers whenever appropriate, and never allowing any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible. Overall, this is a fantastic Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible) soundtrack that delivers on all fronts and shouldn’t disappoint in any way whatsoever.
The Blu-ray release of ‘1917’ includes some solid extras that take you deeper into bringing the film to life. Included on the release are ‘2 Audio Commentary’ tracks, the first is an ‘Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Sam Mendes’ and the second is an ‘Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Roger Deakins’. We are also treated to a collection of Behind the Scenes Featurettes that each explore different aspects of bring the film to life and featuring interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus behind the scenes footage and more; they include: ‘The Weight of the World: Sam Mendes’ (running approximately 4 minutes in length), ‘Allied Forces: Making 1917’ (running approximately 12 minutes) ‘The Score of 1917’ (approximately 4 minutes), ‘In The Trenches’ (7 minutes) and ‘Recreating History’ (10 minutes).