Coming from a family rooted in warfare, where grandparents and ancestors fought or felt the consequences of both WWI and WWII, I have always struggled to find a war film that realistically represents the reality of life in the trenches. Until now.
With his latest offering, director Sam Mendes uses fantastic cinematography to heartbreakingly portray life on the front line in the Great War.
Mendes brings back his signature Bond movie Spectre shot, where the camera follows two young British soldiers in a single continuous view as they make their way through the narrow trenches, to the daunting No-Man’s Land, and finally to enemy lines.
Lives are on the line as both boys are required to deliver an urgent message to call off a pending attack. If they don’t make it on time, their colleagues all be slaughtered in an ambush.
Dean-Charles Chapman, who you may recognise as Tommen Baratheon from Game of Thrones, and George Mackay, star of war flick Private Peaceful, perfectly play the role of the two soldiers; inexperienced but brave-hearted.
A voyeuristic follower, the audience follows the pair almost as a third person in their voyage to the main line. Mendes beautifully disguises his cuts to make the film seem like one unbroken sequence.
Not only does the film show the hardships brought by war, but also the everyday horrors that are a part of it. From the cramp, claustrophobic life in the trenches, to the rotten bodies of those left carelessly and endlessly on the battlefield, Mendes brings to life the real horrors of the First World War.
The film also boasts numerous cameo-like appearances throughout. Actors such as Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch all bring their own take to those fighting in the war for the British army.
The most memorable scene in the film comes towards the conclusion. While all the men around him start to attack the enemy, Mackay’s character makes an urgent dash along the front line – a scene which will go down undoubtedly as one of the greatest war scenes in film history.
It may not be the action-packed thriller many were hoping for, but Mendes never had that aim with this film. The director intended to show the horrors of war through the eyes of those who were caught right in the middle of it.
There is no doubt that after winning the awards for both Best Motion Picture and Best Director at the Golden Globes, 1917 and Mendes are in line for a very good night at the upcoming BAFTAs and Oscar’s.