(US/UK/Spain - 2019)
Directed by Sam Mendes. Written by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Adrian Scarborough, Daniel Mays, Pip Carter, Richard McCabe, Billy Postlethwaite, Robert Maaser. (R, 119 mins)
A WWI epic inspired by a story that director/co-writer Sam Mendes was told by his Lance Corporal grandfather, 1917 is an impressive technical achievement that's so devoted to its--for lack of a better word--gimmick, that it's pulled off at the expense of telling the story in the most beneficial way. Drawing from older classics like ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and Stanley Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY with the more visceral, you-are-there immediacy of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and DUNKIRK, 1917 attempts to convey its entire run time as one continuous shot, a la Hitchcock's ROPE or Alejandro G. Inarritu's BIRDMAN. Of course, if you go into any exercise of this type knowing that, you start getting distracted by trying to spot where the usually seamless cuts are, and here, the spell is momentarily broken by a huge mid-film cut to black when a character is knocked unconscious. Mendes, who has the distinction of directing the both strongest (SKYFALL) and weakest (SPECTRE) of the Daniel Craig 007 outings, makes a valiant effort to go for those Kubrick long takes and uses the legendary auteur's old standby of natural light with the great cinematographer Roger Deakins, but once its plot is set in motion, it strangely lacks the emotion or the urgency that the situation requires, primarily because Mendes' overriding concern is the single-take illusion.