1917 Review: A Stunning, Immersive War Film

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1917 Film

A scene from ‘1917’ (Photo by Francois Duhamel / Universal Pic © 2019 Universal Pictures and Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC)

“Your orders are to deliver a message calling off tomorrow morning’s attack. If you fail, it will be a massacre,” says General Erinmore (Colin Firth) to two British soldiers on the front during WWI in the dramatic action thriller, 1917.

During the height of battle in WWI, Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman, Game of Thrones‘ House Lannister) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) are given what seems to be an impossible mission: travel alone, deep into enemy territory, to deliver a message to stop 1,600 men from being slaughtered in an attack that’s actually a trap set by the Germans to wipe them out. Corporal Blake has an even deeper reason to care about saving the men from sent to their deaths; one of the men who could be killed is his brother (played by Richard Madden, Game of Thrones‘ House Stark).

Racing against time, the two soldiers make their way across deserted battlefields and towns trying their best to survive the journey and stop the attack in time to save thousands of lives.

Gritty and suspenseful, 1917 is a powerful film with stunning cinematography, outstanding direction, and two standout performances. Director Sam Mendes filmed the movie using the single-shot technique and it works brilliantly, immersing the audience into the film and making them feel as though they’re right there in the trenches with Corporals Blake and Schofield.

George MacKay delivers an incredible, moving performance as Schofield, Blake’s good friend who wants to help save the 1,600 men including Blake’s brother but is terrified of being killed. MacKay’s facial expressions and body language as he travels across enemy territory perfectly convey his fear and dread.



The cinematography is breathtaking. Shot almost completely outside, the scenes of the two soldiers traveling through muddy and blood-soaked trenches, overcast terrain, and the journey through a battle-destroyed town is visually striking. The editing is flawless, making the film feel as though it’s happening in real-time.

Thomas Newman’s score is magnificent and helps to heighten the sense of danger that could be lurking in the next trench or in the farmhouse seen in the distance. What John Williams’ score did for the movie Jaws, Newman’s score does for this film.

Compelling, gripping, and unrelenting, 1917 is a masterfully crafted film and a true cinematic triumph. It’s one of the best war films in years and captures the brutality, fear, horror, and heroism in war superbly. It’s also a sincere tribute to those who served in The First World War.

GRADE: A

MPAA: R for violence, some disturbing images, and language

Running Time: 110 minutes

Release Date: January 10, 2020




Kevin Finnerty

Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for Showbizjunkies.com and a movie buff since 1973.
Kevin Finnerty
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