1917 review round-up: Sam Mendes' war film is a 'visual knockout' with 'immersive' storytelling technique

FP Staff

Nov 26, 2019 12:46:28 IST

Director Sam Mendes is returning to the war genre, with World War I drama 1917, 14 years after he helmed Jarhead (2005). Ahead of the debut of 1917 in theaters, critics are praising the technique to unfold  the entire film as a single-shot, a move which appears to have paid off, as per early reviews.

The film follows two British soldiers (George McKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) in World War I, who must cross enemy lines to deliver a message which will prevent over a thousand men from walking into a deadly trap. The rest of the all-star British cast includes Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, and Colin Firth.

 1917 review round-up: Sam Mendes war film is a visual knockout with immersive storytelling technique

A still from the trailer | Twitter

Read what critics have to say about 1917

Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian calls Mendes's 1917 an ambitious and unshakable world war drama. He praise cinematographer Roger Deakins' efforts on presenting the film as a one-continuous shot, and writes, "The single-take technique fascinatingly creates a kind of theatrical effect: the spectacle of two people moving through an unbroken space. It is immersive, yes, but that dangerously overused word does not quite convey the paradoxical alienation that is being created: the distance, the pure strangeness. The two men’s experiences are bizarre and shocking, but a poignant and then tragic sympathy is finally dredged up from the mud of their ordeal."

Echoing similar sentiments, Scott Mendelson of Forbes notes, "Sam Mendes’ 1917 is indeed one of the best movies of the year, if not THE best. That’s a conversation for another day, but the single-take World War I action drama, concerning two grunts attempting to race across enemy lines to deliver crucial, life-saving intelligence to allies readying to wage war, is a genuine marvel of movie magic. With one brief, and entirely fair, exception, this entire 110-minute picture unfolds as a single long take as the camera swoops in and out, dives here and there and essentially creates the illusion of a real-time war flick for its duration." Further adding the film is a 'visual miracle,' Mendelson says, "It’s everything it promises to be, visually, narratively and emotionally, operating both as a technical blow-out, and just a damn great movie."

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter calls the film a 'visual knockout,' and says, "Despite the vast complexity of the storytelling technique, the tale itself, written by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (the latter known for writing nine episodes of Penny Dreadful), is very simple, and satisfyingly so, hinging on the single matter of whether or not an otherwise inevitable slaughter will be avoided. And it all comes predictably wrapped in the inevitable humanistic lament about the tragic waste, the millions of lives lost, the needless destruction and misuse of creative and industrial initiative." The critic concludes with, "From now on, when the discussion turns to great works of cinematography and camera operating, 1917 will always have to be high on the list."

Kate Erbland of IndieWire says, "Though 1917 is so beholden to its narrative framework, Mendes has also assembled a range of actors who add emotional depth and physical daring to a demanding idea. Chapman, likely best known to most audiences as the ill-fated young King Tommen from Game of Thrones (yes, that’s really him), serves as the film’s heart, eager to push through a seemingly impossible mission in the hopes of saving one of the few good things left in his life (his beloved brother, played in a late cameo by fellow Thrones star Richard Madden).

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1917 is slated to release in India on 10 January, 2020.

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Updated Date: Nov 26, 2019 12:46:28 IST