1917

Critics Consensus

Hard-hitting, immersive, and an impressive technical achievement, 1917 captures the trench warfare of World War I with raw, startling immediacy.

89%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 368

89%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 17,681
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Movie Info

At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic's George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones' Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers--Blake's own brother among them.

Cast

George MacKay
as Lance Corporal Schofield
Dean-Charles Chapman
as Lance Corporal Blake
Mark Strong (II)
as Captain Smith
Andrew Scott
as Lieutenant Leslie
Richard Madden
as Lieutenant Joseph Blake
Colin Firth
as General Erinmore
Benedict Cumberbatch
as Colonel Mackenzie
Jamie Parker
as Lieutenant Richards
Nabhaan Rizwan
as Sepoy Jondalar
Adrian Scarborough
as Major Hepburn
Daniel Mays
as Sergeant Sanders
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News & Interviews for 1917

Critic Reviews for 1917

All Critics (368) | Top Critics (48) | Fresh (329) | Rotten (39)

  • The film is thrilling, moving on effectively from one shocking set piece to another, studding the narrative too with starry cameos.

    Jan 14, 2020 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • It's a tense, unnerving ride that accomplishes its goal of translating the first-person experience of war better than any war movies that have come before it. It's a level up.

    Jan 13, 2020 | Rating: A | Full Review…
  • From the sole perspective of the filmmaking craft, "1917" is worth a watch.

    Jan 10, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • While Mendes didn't shrink from displaying the vivid imagination of a suburban horndog, he's unwilling to face the imagination of the valorous combatants of "1917."

    Jan 10, 2020 | Full Review…
  • 1917's ambitious gambit soon becomes a double-edged sword: it brings us closer to these men, but sets them apart from the collective experiences it seeks to memorialise.

    Jan 10, 2020 | Rating: 3/5
  • If Mendes' film-making has sometimes felt to have not fully outgrown his beginnings in theatre, 1917 is wildly cinematic, a movie that makes you feel the breath of mortality on your neck.

    Jan 8, 2020 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for 1917

  • Jan 11, 2020
    If you're ever in the mood to watch a war film, there's an over-abundance of them throughout history. You can almost always find one that you haven't seen before. For this reason alone, I find myself being very cautious when one is about to get a wide release. With recent releases like Hacksaw Ridge or Dunkirk, my faith in the genre is always rejuvenated. Well, 1917 is yet another war film to come along and surprise me. For all the technical reasons to love this film on top of the powerful story itself, here's why I believe 1917 is one of 2019s very best films.? The premise is nice and simple. Two young soldiers are given the task of sneaking through enemy lines in order to deliver a message to their commander, which will, in turn, save thousands of lives if received in time. This premise makes for a very tense ride. On top of being an engaging story, this movie is filmed in such a way that it makes it feel like one continuous take, for the most part, which ultimately begs the core actors to deliver the performances of their career. Although I've seen him in great films like Captain Fantastic and Pride, George MacKay never really stood out to me as award-worthy, but I stand corrected. This may very well be the best performance he ever gives, but that's not a negative, because I'll always remember him for this role. Alongside him is Dean-Charles Chapman, who I've also liked in Game of Thrones and Blinded by the Light, so I knew to expect a solid performance from him. With that said, he also delivers one of the better performances I've seen in 2019, simply due to the devotion he has to his character.? Now, this would absolutely be an incomplete review if I forgot to bring up how incredible the technical aspects of this film are. Roger Deakins is basically a god in the cinematography world, so his work astounds me every single time he brings his vision to a project, and 1917 is no exception to that. The way this camera seamlessly follows these actors in and out of small or big sequences was simply astonishing. Layered on top of this jaw-dropping cinematography is the superb score by Thomas Newman. The combination of being swept up in these performances, caring about the story, being impressed by the camerawork, and then finally being moved by how well the music was composed for each scene, I found it very difficult to criticize anything here.? Overall, 1917 deserves a standing ovation for the technical aspects, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that this movie also wouldn't have been as good as it is without the careful direction by Sam Mendes. Between his work on American Beauty or Skyfall, it should come as no surprise that he would make a great film, but the crew around him took it to another level in my opinion. I was sucked in from start to finish and the two-hour run time flew by. I can't recommend this film enough. Easily one of my favourite films of 2019.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Jan 11, 2020
    1917 is an achievement in immersive filmmaking - with its impressive cinematography, film editing, and set design. It's a near-perfect film - deftly balancing the tension and coldness of war with deep human emotions - but suffers from less-than-stellar dialogue and segments that slow down rather than propel the story.
    Matthew S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 01, 2020
    We all know what the immediate appeal for 1917 is and that is its bravura gimmick of making the entire two hours appear as if it is one long, unbroken film take. Long tracking shots have famously been used in films before, like Goodfellas and Atonement, and entire movies have been filmed through the illusion of a single take, from Hitchcock's Rope to Russian Ark to Best Picture-winner Birdman. The difference between those one-take movies and 1917 is that none of them were a war movie that takes place primarily outdoors in very real elements. The sheer technical audacity of the feat demands that it be see on the big screen when able. It's like a cinematic magic trick, allowing you to sit in awe at the sheer ambition and technical wizardry of the filmmakers and continue muttering, "How did they do that?" When done right, it can reawaken that magical feel of watching something impressively new, but is there any more than a gimmick? It's 1917 and two ordinary British soldiers, Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman, a.k.a. "Tommen" from Game of Thrones) and Schofield (George MacKay), are tasked with a life-saving mission. A military unit is walking into a trap, and if they do not deliver this dire message in mere hours, hundreds of men will die, including Blake's older brother. They have only hours before the fateful attack is launched and must traverse into enemy territory that may not be as deserted as they have been lead to believe. Whatever else you think about 1917, it is worth watching simply to witness the awe-inspiring technical vision from director Sam Mendes (Skyfall, American Beauty). The sheer scope of this movie is overwhelming when it comes to the logistics of being able to keep the camera roaming, which will go from handheld to crane to swooping lines above. It feels alive with that vitality of theater, knowing that if something were to go wrong that everyone would just adjust and move onward. When you see someone tip-toeing along the edge of a bridge, that's them doing so. When you watch someone diving for cover, it's really happening, and Mendes wants you to know. It brings an interesting verité feel to something that must have been planned within an inch of its existence. But was it? Did the actors meet the exact same blocking marks every take? Were the clouds aligned just so each time? I'm willing to credit legendary cinematographer Roger Deakens (Blade Runner 2047) with extra plaudits not just for arranging all the logistics of the busy camerawork but for finding pleasing visual compositions on the spot, using what was available. He deserves all the awards because this movie is nothing but brilliant photography and production design. A segment where we run through the ruins of a French village at night, with German flares providing momentary bursts of visible light above, is astounding. I think about the meticulous precision of the camerawork, the timing of the lighting cues, the practice of the actors and story decision to run in darkness and hide for cover in light, the pursuers giving chase, and it just makes my head hurt from all the daunting coordination. It might be dismissively viewed as a WWII video game and the characters as the avatars we urge onward, and I don't disagree. I found the entire enterprise to be deeply immersive, visceral, and thrilling in its stunning sense of verisimilitude. However, I'll admit, dear reader, that I was growing bored by the first ten minutes or so, and I even admit that this was in some part by design. Given its proximity to being in real time (the trek we are told should take 6 hours) it means early on there is a lot of walking. Before we venture out into No Man's Land, it feels like we're just watching people walk and walk and walk through the lengthy English trenches. It can become a bit repetitive and your mind may wander, but there is a rationale for this from Mendes and company. It communicates what the geography of battle and day-to-day life was like for the soldiers, to go from one supposedly safe section, snaking round and round to the front lines, noting the distance but also, in practical terms, how close life and death were from one another. It's also a recognition of the reality of trench warfare and you can stop and think, "Wow, the production actually built this entire miles-long trench," but then you can just as easily transition to, "Wow, people really dug in and built these structures back in 1912." The long walk serves as the confirmation not just of a top-notch film production but also of the hardened reality of a soldier bogged down in a trench for months. The First Act is essentially them walking to the front line, crossing over into No Man's Land, and approaching the German trench on the other side. On paper, that doesn't sound like too much in the way of story events, but it's our introduction as an audience into the life that these soldiers experienced. Each crater, each corpse strewn on the battlefield, it helps paint a larger picture of the unseen stories leading to this moment. It's a very real equivalent of "show, don't tell" storytelling, and the long walk better cements in our minds just how daunting this trial will be, especially since every step after the trench is fraught with danger. I figured that 1917 was going to be more about its gimmick and that the characters would suffer under the weight of this setup, and it's true that they could be sharper, but 1917 succeeds in ways that I found Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk lacking. By focusing primarily on two characters and hinging success or failure on them alone, the film does a better job of providing me a personal entry point into the larger conflict. I have someone I can follow from the start, and that's not just because the camera is confined to their immediate orbit. About halfway through, the movie makes a turn that really ups the stakes as well as my emotional involvement in a way that I never felt during 2017's Dunkirk, which felt too removed with its interchangeable, faceless characters. With Dunkirk, it was a race against time but this was muddled by its non-linear, time-hopping structure. It's a race against time but you were given three different sets of time that would crash into one another. It was too clever to feel the urgency. With 1917, it's streamlined to the essential (get to point A before X time) and the urgency is alive in every moment. Not only do our characters not know what they'll discover past the German lines, if they deviate too long, they may well arrive too late to stop a doomed attack. I assumed our characters would persevere, but as the film carried on, and the setbacks mounted, I began to doubt. Would this be another Gallipoli scenario of pointless death at the behest of arrogance, stubbornness, and bad information? By the end I didn't know and that gnawing uncertainty provided a tremendous spark of tension. It can be episodic, it can feel more like a gimmick than a movie, but 1917 is a prime example of why we go to the movies. We go to be dazzled and transported through the magic and marvels of expert craftsmen and to throw ourselves into the complicated, messy, intriguing world of strangers that we get to cheer for, laugh with, and possibly cry over. The technical accomplishments will be heralded for years and studied long after. It's a technical feat but, thankfully, the movie is more than merely its magic act. The human drama becomes personalized, universal, and engaging. There are several moments meant to breathe, including one gorgeous moment in hiding with a Frenchwoman and a baby that is beautiful in its cross-language connection on a human level. The suspense can be overwhelming and I was rocking back and forth whether or not characters would be caught, seen, or make it out alive, always remembering the stakes of failure. Watching 1917 is like holding your breath for two hours and then exhaling at long last upon the end credits. I feel that there are enough resonating elements that provide substance for the movie to stand on its own merits but it will forever be known for its long, coordinated feature-length tracking shot. Even if that is its lasting legacy, 1917 is still a thrilling and immersive achievement in filmmaking ambition. Nate's Grade: A-
    Nate Z Super Reviewer

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