Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for February 20th, 2020

1917 *****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 20th February, 2020

1917Largely because of recent foreign travels I hadn’t got round to seeing Sam Mendes’s flm 1917 until this evening, but pleasure is often heightened when delayed. “Pleasure” might seem an odd word to use when talking about an epic portrayal of the hell of the First World War trenches and their devastated environs, but the movie is so masterful as to be a riveting and enjoyable experience. Right from the start one is immersed in the mud and squalour of the front line and quickly becomes desensitised to the sight of huddled, exhausted soldiers trying to rest, corpses in various stages of decomposition and black rats in large numbers. Brilliant cinematography gives the viewer the impression of following in one immense long take the lonely and dangerous journey of two young men tasked with carrying a vital message across the German lines to endangered British forces beyond. One becomes completely enveloped by their sense of urgency mixed with moments of despair as they confront an explosive series of challenges. Lance Corporal Schofield (played by George MacKay), as the one who must carry on alone when his companion is killed, has a haunting face, half-uncomprehending, half-resigned, almost shell-shocked from the horror and carnage around him, but driven to accomplish his mission. MacKay’s performance is unforgettable, but the whole film is an astonishing achievement: raw, unflinching and yet suffused with a contradictory sense of humanity and camaraderie that somehow survive the senseless buffeting of the War.

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