War films have traditionally appealed to masculine sensibilities, providing settings that explore fraternal brotherhood in situations that demand courage, bravery and often a good old-fashioned fight. These elements, when they work in unison, provide for visceral thrills that are both purposeful and justified. 1917 is a masterpiece that dares to explore new ways of using all these elements in perfectly assembled cinematic form to tell a war story that has immediacy and perspective. Director Sam Mendes gets nearly everything right in his second attempt at a war film (sorry Jarhead). Unspooling like a combo of Saving Private Ryan meets Dunkirk, 1917 effortlessly carves and creates its own uniqueness, whether it’s in the intimacy of trench warfare or dogfights from the point of view of soldiers on the ground.

The naivety of the two lead actors translates well to their roles as young, inexperienced soldiers tasked with carrying out an assignment that is as threatening and hazardous as it is driven by passionate reaction. Their differing perspectives towards the mission they are sent on appeal to both our hearts (one of them is on a quest to save his brother, who may end up in a deeply perilous situation) and our minds (the other accompanying him asks sensible questions about the dangers of embarking on a quest through abandoned enemy territory in plain daylight). Along the way lurk many dangers, very few of which have outcomes that we expect.

Wholly immersive, a big part of the fascinating viewing experience owes itself to the DP, Roger Deakins. As if there was anything at all that Deakins had yet to prove as the purveyor par excellence in the field of Cinematography, let the scene where flares light up the night sky amidst the ruins of warfare (a sure nod to Tarkovsky’s anti-war classic Ivan’s Childhood), as Thomas Newman’s majestic score swells, leave you in complete and absolute awe within the darkness of the Cineplex.

Rating: ★★★★★


About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and wearethemovies.com