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George MacKay – Lance Corporal William Schofield
Dean-Charles Chapman – Lance Corporal Thomas Blake
Mark Strong – Captain Smith
Richard Madden – Lieutenant Joseph Blake
Colin Firth – General Erinmore
Benedict Cumberbatch – Colonel Mackenzie
Claire Duburcq – Lauri
There’s been talk on the internet about 1917’s filming style; how it appears as though it was shot all in one take but actually wasn’t. Personally, I think it is this element which makes the entire movie an outstanding piece of cinema. Watched on the big screen it’s not hard to gage a sense of empathy for the characters, based on the camerawork which moves in a truly unique way, and MacKay and Chapman’s brilliant performances.
As each scene progresses the camera whizzes along at ground level so it’s as though you’re being dragged across the battle zones with the boys. At the beginning they scramble over a boggy area in which corpses lie, the camera zooming right in to close-up on the carnage. It then zooms out and moves around the boys dramatically, before panning across the murky environment again.
In addition to this rollercoaster ride is the high level of anticipation brought on by the characters not knowing who – or what – will be waiting for them on the other side of ‘no man’s land’. Similar to sneaking past a person who is asleep with the fear of waking them up, the tension here is superb and enough to put you on-edge.
It’s difficult to put into words the artistic approach to how they filmed 1917. You have to watch it yourself to fully appreciate it.
The scene where Schofield desperately tries to locate Mackenzie is fucking mad, and brilliant. When he realises the trenches are too crowded, he climbs up the walls and sprints across the front line of the battlefield. Him running furiously through charging soldiers and explosions is breathtaking. I genuinely couldn’t take my eyes off the screen it was thatgripping. With very little else to distract the viewer other than the background actors, the entire focus is on Schofield as he’s running..
..and just keeps running. It’s one hell of an intense scene, and becomes almost incredible as nothing but the man’s desperation – with a spiralling urgency – is the only focus for what seems like a very long time. Just superb.
And the scene set at night where he becomes acquainted with a strange woman and her baby is nothing short of dazzling. Some terrific lighting used here to create an otherworldly atmosphere amongst crumbling stone buildings. This reminded me a bit of Tomb Raider (game or movie); derelict sandy villages and looming shadows as the character runs down pathways.
If you’re after a war movie that doesn’t consist of typical staging or dull character conversations that many others do, this is the one. 1917 explodes on screen and engulfs its viewer in furious tensity whilst tracking the lead characters’ movements at ground level. From impossible sprints and booby traps to the nerve-shredding moment the two British soldiers enter an uninviting German trench, it’s all right here.
And the turmoil one of the characters goes through towards the end of the movie has to be one of the most emotionally engaging things I’ve seen in quite a while. It brings the movie to a climax at the same time as reminding the viewer that behind the bloodshed of war, there’s still the matter of human feelings.
An absolute winner.