Zach Wee’s review published on Letterboxd:
Before I go into detail describing the plethora of issues I have personally with Sam Mendes's 1917, let me begin by giving politically correct comments that I'm sure everyone would agree with. Roger Deakins is the man. Holy shit this film is in one shot. It really captures the bleakness of war. The horrors of battle have never felt this real. The performances. The sound design. The score. Did I mention this film is IN ONE SHOT. Roger Deakins is the man. He's so underrated.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think 1917 is a bad film. I enjoy Sam Mendes's work as a director (though it couldn't be made more clear that he peaked with his debut). Mendes seems to be one of those few filmmakers able to blend elements of more artistically inclined cinema with that of the more commercial side of cinema, leading to cinematic experiences that can be enjoyed by just about anyone. The performances of the two main characters were great, and for what its worth, I was only somewhat distracted by a handful of the million-and-a-half cameos in the film. The score was decent and definitely memorable, though it does creep on the overbearing side of things at times. Which brings us to the element of the film that everyone can't shut up about- the cinematography. I mean, there's no denying that Deakins is one of the greatest and definitely one of the most versatile cinematographers out there and it definitely shows in 1917. Despite the film being presented in one-shot (or at least appear to be), there isn't any one shot that seem to call unnecessary attention to the artificialility of the camera. There's some nice setpieces and a genuinely great incorporation of the colour green as a visual motif which definitely give a strong sense of artistic purpose to the film's visuals. Everything serves the narrative, which should be a good thing... if the narrative in question doesn't suck.
1917, along with the likes of Hacksaw Ridge, embody everything wrong with the war genre, at least from a narrative standpoint. It's nearly impossible to capture the horrors of war without first glamourising the spectacle and it really shows with the one-shot presentation in this film, as unglamourised as Deakins's camera is. So many scenes are just irrelevant "moving from point A to point B" that are just dull and do nothing to reveal character or theme. There are, however, some genuinely good moments that could've very well led to interesting developments, but unfortunately, these moments are just one-off moments that do nothing except make the audience wish they were watching something not so incredibly one-note. This film is just one big wasted opportunity to properly utilise the one-shot structure to reveal a very human perspective in war otherwise absent from the context of contemporary cinema. A perspective absent from the film's vision in favour of something that definitely feels more akin to Mad Maximilian: German Road.
Jokes aside, I don't hate 1917. As a matter of fact, I think it's a decent piece of entertainment that just about anyone can enjoy, regardless of their own personal attachment to the medium of cinema. However, if one were to perceive cinema as a bonafide art form, and in turn, perceive 1917 as a piece of art to be analysed, to be deeply moved by, to be appreciated for its significance, then I'm sorry because this film would most definitely disappoint.