09 January 2020, The Tablet

One take on hell

One take on hell

George MacKay plays Lance Corporal Schofield


Director: Sam Mendes

With 1917 Sam Mendes meets the challenge of a First World War movie head-on. He’s made an intimate epic – that is, the scale of the milieu is overwhelming, but the story itself has a you-are-there immediacy. Its most prominent star isn’t visible: that would be cinematographer Roger Deakins, whose masterly camerawork creates an illusion that we are watching something unfold in a single take. By the end you may feel a little breathless. 

The film, which won awards for best film and best director at the Golden Globes last Sunday, and is inspired by stories Mendes’ grandfather told him, is built on a standard dangerous-mission plot. Two lance corporals, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), must travel through no-man’s-land to prevent a catastrophe: a British regiment, the Devons, has been fooled into believing that the Germans have withdrawn, whereas they are actually entrenched and waiting for the enemy to walk into their trap.

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