This Golden Globe Best Film (for Drama) winning and multi Oscar-nominated (ten in all) film deserves all of its award season glory.
It probably isn’t the ‘greatest’ war film ever-made, but due to its unique technique – being filmed in third person via one long single take – that does make it that little bit special.
Oscar-winning American Beauty and Skyfall director Sam Mendes joins forces with acclaimed British cinematographer Roger Deakins – who has films such as Blade Runner 2049, Sicario, Fargo, No Country for Old Men and The Shawshank Redemption in his locker – to help maximise his truly visceral way of storytelling.
All to the backdrop of the beautiful landscapes envisioned by Deakins – and a suitably accompanying musical score – that really bring to life the true horror of the First World War on the front line and beyond.
Lance corporals Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) – two young British fighters during the third year of the war on the Western Front in northern France – are given a seemingly impossible task at the behest of Colin Firth’s General Erinmore. That’s to deliver an urgent message to an isolated regiment,led by Benedict Cumberbatch’s Colonel Mackenzie, whose 1,600 men at his disposal are about to walk into a deadly well-orchestrated trap by the Germans.
To make things worse, Blake’s older brother Joseph (Richard Madden from TV’s The Bodyguard) is a lieutenant in the regiment, and with time against them the duo most cross swathes of enemy territory to get the message to them before the major charge that could see them massacred.
Through abandoned German barracks, hidden snipers, terrified French folk, and crossing paths with other British forces along the way (one led by Mark Strong’s Captain Smith) – the enigmatic way the film is shot always makes Mendes’ astonishing piece of cinema compelling.
Some could argue it does lead to one or two lulls – and the camera constrains the movie to prevent it being epic in a ‘grander’ fashion – but there’s no disputing this deserves to be right up there in the Oscar conversation.
And the chemistry between MacKay and Chapman brings a certain underlying warmth during such an horrific event.
The atrocities of war have never been seen quite in this way before – and anyone that’s a fan of cinema shouldn’t waste any time in seeing this arguable masterpiece.
Mendes and Deakins should be saluted.
ESP Rating: 4.5/5
Cast: George Mackay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Claire Durburcq, Adrian Scarborough, Billy Postlethwaite, Daniel Mays, Richard Madden & Benedict Cumberbatch
Running Time: 1 Hr 59 Mins
Director: Sam Mendes
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