1917

“They’re walking into a trap. Your orders are to deliver a message calling off tomorrow morning’s attack. If you fail, it will be a massacre.”

This Oscar-winning British World War I epic chronicles two soldiers’ mission to deliver a crucial message inspired by the actual events of Operation Alberich and based on the incredible account of the military service of director Sam Mendes’ paternal grandfather.

Mendes also produces and co-writes the screenplay using using “The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991” with Krysty Wilson-Cairns who makes her feature film debut as a screenwriter.

George MacKay portrays Lance Corporal William “Will” Schofield while Dean-Charles Chapman portrays Lance Corporal Thomas “Tom” Blake. This duo gets the challenging task of relaying this essential message. Their dependence on each other becomes essential as they race against time to save lives. The technical brilliance of this historical war film allows audiences to experience war in a unique way as well as a sense of space like never before.

Filmmakers wisely give audience a “lay of the land” perspective to create an incredibly emotional and personal experience such as understanding the physical toll since filmmakers accurately accentuate the necessity of their equipment while they’re receiving their orders. I even found myself making tactical decisions alongside these two soldiers (“scavenge quickly and keep moving”) with my limited knowledge of this challenging situation.

Preparation was key as the cast spent six months rehearsing before filming while the crew constructed over 5,200 feet of trenches and other amazing set pieces.

Director Sam Mendes, his film crew and visual effects team create groundbreaking filmmaking techniques and sets including one of the largest lighting rigs ever for filming, which stood five stories high.

This film won Oscars for visual effects, sound mixing, and cinematography for Roger Deakins who shot most of the film using Arri Alexa LF digital format camera using several lense types. The visual effects win was the first in 50 years for a war film since the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!

A key sequence centering on a wise caretaker portrayed by Claire Duburcq is a welcome respite and also reveals some key character background. Andrew Scott has a key role hardened leader Lieutenant Leslie while Richard Madden has a memorable role near the film’s end as Lieutenant Joseph Blake.

Several notable stars have key roles as commanding officers including Mark Strong as Captain Smith, Colin Firth as General Erinmore, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Colonel Mackenzie.

Highly recommended (***1/2) and rated R for violence, some disturbing images, and language. Also in IMAX theaters.

 

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