As Awards Season arrives, another contender steps up with Sam Mendes leaving behind the fantasy land of Bond for the real world horror of the First World War. He also leaves behind big star names, sure there are a few that appear in tiny roles, but the film belongs to a duo of new stars. The first half of the film, before it opens up from the previous claustrophobia in the second, pretty much features only two actors. At this point 1917 feels much more like a theatre piece, if it were not for the magic camera work and blasting sonics that accompany their journey. The whole point here is to show us individuals in the grand scheme of the war. Tales surface of their family, their childhood, their freedom before the cannons fired. Both performances are excellent and thanks to the stunning visuals, 1917 puts you in the trenches on this seemingly impossible journey.
Whilst Mendes, if the Golden Globes are anything to go by, will pick up the big awards, the glory here belongs to the camera work, tracking shots that remind you of the best of Hitchcock or Coppola or Kubrick scoop you up and send you deeper and deeper into the war. There is so much detail, a giant rat here, a floating corpse there, I found my eyes surveying the scene looking for the next tripwire or enemy fire, there is very little chance to breathe here, you are so caught up in the fight.
By using ‘unknown‘ (yes, they have been in other things and I know about Game Of Thrones and I know about Billy Elliot…) young actors in the central roles, you never know whether the tale is going to be the victorious sending of a message to the frontline, or a just missed opportunity to change history. I was questioning the next set piece throughout.
Get those shiny golden guys ready for the camera team and the sound department – 1917 also happens to be the best war film since Jarhead, so I’m fine with any award wins.