“1917’s camerawork engulfs the film. It’s supposed to. While not quite pretending to be a continuous long take, there is only one blatantly obvious cut.

“We’re aware of it within a minute, travelling through the trenches with young corporals Schofield and Blake, trudging through the slush, being pushed and shoved by other soldiers — we’re in the melee from the off. Summoned to a meeting, the two men are told that they are to deliver a message to the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. Schofield and Blake are charged with setting off over the frontline, through German territory and across the countryside to give the word

“The film is thick with atmosphere. Due to the insanity of the war — the horror and the madness — there’s a surreal quality to much of 1917 It’s a waking nightmare, no less so because of the unforgiving daylight. No mood lighting required. There’s barely any backstory, it’s all about the here and now.

“Needless to say, as 1917 goes on, things don’t get any happier.  There is little respite. Clearly, Mendes wants the camerawork to immerse us in the action, and it does. The camera ducks and dives gracefully, swooping around balletically — it may often be one long shot, but it’s never static, never boring. You can only imagine the choreography involved. This is a film that has been meticulously planned, to the inch, to the millisecond.

“There’s nothing rousing here, no grandstanding. There is hopelessness throughout, just little slithers of light shining through the murk. Any humanity on display is constantly bludgeoned. Which is fitting, all things considered.

“Almost everything you’ve ever seen in a war film is here. But never quite like this. It is very much a stylistic exercise. It’s an astonishing piece of filmmaking, portraying war with enormous panache. This is big-screen bravado, and then some.” - Empire


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