This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Nick J’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Even for a genre that seems as tired as war films, "1917" still feels like a fresh showstopper of a film gunning for so much. It's probably best to start with the faux-one-take gimmick that on the surface looks like another excuse to put butts in seats to capture faux-war in a whole new way, but it really does go beyond the gimmick to help the storytelling. The story of Schofield & Blake is full of urgency and that urgency is conveyed through the nonstop pacing that follows every step (and misstep) the two make. It's hard not to find a sense of nihilism dripping from the film, with many characters being tired, confused soldiers that seem sick to their stomachs with having to trudge through the war to end all wars, and the constant movement away from rotting corpses and broken equipment helps to convey the irreverence, how there's no time to stop for the tragedy of death. After Blake's death, the camera just moves on with Schofield, quickly moving the body of one of our protagonists out of view, no time to mourn anymore.
The scenes in Écoust-Saint-Mein are breathtaking and tense with the usage of lighting and mis-en-scene and the final act in the green morning mist with Schofield nearly failing his mission continues the intensity the film has built up, even with more quiet moments brought upon by the hymn scene. The scene with Joseph Blake and Schofield gives a bit of levity and satisfaction, but it doesn't help with the absolute exhaustion the sprawling survival drama had created by the end. "1917" is well-paced, interesting, intense, dramatic, and sprawling, a film that feels so fresh by sticking so close to the guns to what makes a war movie tick from technical satisfaction to grounded storytelling.