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Combat -WWI

1917 (2020)

1917

Duration 1h 59m Rating (UK) 15 (R in USA)
Source of story Inspired by stories told by the director’s grandfather
Director Sam Mendes
Writers/Script Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Starring Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Dainel Mays, Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden,

Elevator Pitch: Somewhere ahead of the front line a British brigade is preparing to attack a retreating German force, but in the rear the general has information that it is  a trap and that they will advance into strong German fortifications and will be annihilated. The Germans have cut the British telephone lines so the only answer is to send two lance-corporals forward through no-man’s land with a message for the colonel in charge. One of them has a brother in the attacking force, providing  him with an incentive.

Content: No sex or nudity, but quite a bit of smoking and some drinking. The messengers face a variety of dangers as they progress. They must climb out of the British trenches, and find their way through the wire, mud and detritus of no-man’s land where there are bodies of men and horses decomposing.  Later in the German trenches they face further dangers and then beyond is the unknown.  Said to be one shot, and in real time – neither of which is correct actually – but still the very long sequences cause constant tension and distress.

A View:  A new entry at No 41 of the IMDb top films and nominated for 10 Oscars. Liked by almost all the critics, although some were critical of the lack of characterisation, and felt it was a bit tricky. In truth it was. I just could not quite reconcile my knowledge of what actually happened out there in the mud of Flanders with what we saw on the screen, but it might have been justified by the date (1917) and anyway it was wonderfully presented.  At this moment, despite its presence as the No 1 film in UK it has still not covered its considerable production costs, so you could help it out by going to see it now. Well worth your time and the ticket price.

Additional Info: The trenches were dug on Salisbury Plain, and it was necessary for the film company to carry out an archaeological survey before permission for the work was granted. They did not find anything. Nominated in a number of Oscar categories and won Visual Effects and Best Cinematography.

About Victor R Gibson

Author of this site three technical books and two novels

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