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20. 1917; movie review

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Title : 20. 1917; movie review
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Cert 15
119 mins
BBFC advice: Contains strong injury detail, language

Tears welled, my heart was beating so fast I could hear it and I was rendered speechless.
Not since Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List have I been as dumbstruck at a cinema as I was during the credits for Sam Mendes' incredible 1917.
For its attention to detail alone, it deserves my first 10/10 rating in two years but it is so much more than an expertly designed battlefield.
How its lead, George MacKay is not deemed worthy of an Academy Award nomination is a complete travesty.
MacKay's portrayal of a First World War messenger is not only compelling and convincing but his athleticism is remarkable.
He has to crawl through trenches, dive through barbed wire, carry a man of equal weight, run at full pelt against the advances of scores of men who literally knock him to the ground and swim through rushing river water.
Yes, I know that the camera probably makes this all a bit more dramatic than it is but he still gives every sinew to his part.
By comparison, Antonio Banderas has been nominated for sitting around looking dazed in Pain & Glory but just has a better-known name.
Mackay plays a lance corporal who reluctantly joins his friend and colleague (Dean-Charles Chapman) to take a life-saving message to a battalion on the other side of German lines.
They are informed that the enemy has moved on but intelligence has been notoriously unreliable.
The journey of a few miles over a few hours is a precis of the battlefield horrors of the First World War.
Thus, the pair face the cloying mud which literally sucked thousands to their deaths, the enormous rats which ate away body parts in soldiers' sleep and are faced with hand-to-hand battle with enemies who are as scared as them.
Every time, they think they have made progress in their mission, they are sideswiped by the unpredictable obstacles of war.
Interestingly, there are major movie stars in 1917 but Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong and Daniel Mays are all limited to cameos.
This is a masterstroke because it means the audience is not distracted.
Indeed, I became so invested in the fate of the daring duo that I was prompted to gasp out loud three times.
Yes, the impact of 1917 is so powerful that I was utterly transfixed upon the outcome for the men and the mission.
More need not be said. This is a magnificent piece of work by a great director. Look at Mendes's catalogue and it proves that he should be hailed with the very best and this is his greatest work yet.
Mrs W and I saw it in IMAX - I highly recommend spending the extra few quid.

Reasons to watch: Epic, gut-wrenching, tear-jerking excellence
Reasons to avoid: Upsetting scenes

Laughs: None
Jumps: Two
Vomit: Yes
Nudity: None
Overall rating: 10/10

Did you know? Born to Portuguese immigrants living on the Caribbean island of Trinidad in 1897, Alfred Mendes enlisted in the British Army at age 19. He spent two years fighting on the Western Front with the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade but was sent home after inhaling poisonous gas in May 1918.

The final word. Sam Mendes: "In a movie that operates more like a ticking-clock thriller at times, I wanted an audience to feel every second passing and take every step with them and also be aware of geography and distance and physical difficulty." Vox

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