1917

Title: 1917
Director: Sam Mendes
Genre: Drama, Action, War, Historical.
Main Cast: Dean Charles Chapman, George MacKay.
Runtime: 119 mins.
IMDb rating: 8.5/10.
My rating: 8.5/10.
Quick summary: Two soldiers are entrusted with a vital mission to save 1,600 of their fellow soldiers. Traversing across No Mans Land, German-occupied cities and harsh conditions, the brothers in arms must rely on each other and themselves to stop a catastrophic ambush in war-torn France.

Plot

Lance Corporals Blake (Chapman) and Schofield (McKay) are given a mission that could save thousands of lives. Blake’s brother is part of a force that are advancing on retreating Germans. What the older Blake brother doesn’t know, along with over one thousand other men, is that the Germans are feigning this retreat and plan on decimating the English forces. The two soldiers are ensured that the German occupied trenches on the other side of No Mans Land are deserted and, reluctantly on Schofield’s part, head on their treacherous journey.
What follows is almost two hours of intense, dramatic cinema. We follow the two soldiers on their descent into hell and chaos as they battle booby-traps, desperate Germans, waterfalls and hails of bullets as they struggle to get their message to the right people in time.

Verdict

This is truly edge-of-your-seat, handrail-gripping cinema. From the moment our two heroes set out on their ill-fated journey your heart begins to pound in your ear as the actors, the soundtrack and the audience have fallen quiet. Even in the louder action scenes towards the end of the movie you can still hear the THUMP THUMP against your chest. When Blake and Schofield are caught in a bomb blast in the bowels of a German trench you would be forgiven or thinking that this was the end of our soldiers. This is a bleak movie and although it has a somewhat happy ending, you may still feel hollow and drained walking out of the theatre. It is wonderfully shot and the locations for the production were beautiful against the dark setting.

Chapan (left) and MacKay

Chapman is best known for his role as Tommen on Game of Thrones. He still has a boyish innocence about him, making his performance that more real as he talks of home and plans for the future despite the hopelessness of his situation.
MacKay is someone who I have known to be in a number of interesting films. I just haven’t seen any of them. After this film, though, I will be looking out for him in any future or past work. He plays the traumatised Schofield incredibly well. Both numbed by war but horrified by death, Schofield’s blank stare and unbreakable will keep you invested in this story and as I said before, on the edge of your seat.

Te screen time is taken up mainly by the two young stars but the film boasts a star-studded supporting cast. Colin Firth plays the general who thrusts the mission on the two corporals. Mark Strong cameos as a general who assists Schofield after a tragic encounter with a fallen German pilot. Benedict Cumberbatch features as the trigger-happy general in charge of the doomed attack, incensed with rage at Schofield’s message of withdrawal. Richard Madden, another Thrones alum plays Blake’s older brother.
What I loved about this stellar supporting cast was that they didn’t take away from the story. None of these veteran actors/soldiers joined our protagonists on their journey. The limelight was solely on Chapman and MacKay. If Mark Strong joined MacKay on his almost fatal journey through a German-occupied French city we wouldn’t be as invested in the story. We genuinely feel that the young soldier will not make it through as he is on his own. The stars only add to the performance; They don’t take away from it.

George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman in 1917 (2019)
MacKay

Sam Mendes is a terrific storyteller. He has directed two of Daniel Craig’s Bond performances and also directed one of my favourite films, Revolutionary Road. He is not restricted by period or genre with each film as dramatic and suspenseful as the last. This film is up for ten different categories at theAcademy Awards and has already won Best Director at the Golden Globes. Its presentation as one-shot has a lot to do with this as you are on the same time path and journey as Blake and Schofield. In particular, the scene where Schofield runs across the front line of battle through soldiers, bullets and debris. It is a sight to behold and one of the many reasons that you should go and watch this film.

A Private War – Review

Title: A Private War
Director: Matthew Heineman
Genre: Drama, Action, Biopic.
Main Cast: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Faye Marsay, Tom Hollander.
Runtime: 110 mins.
IMDb rating: 6.7/10.
My rating: 8.5/10.
Quick summary: Marie Colvin was a fierce human being, a fantastic writer and journalist and a woman at war with her own demons. She saw many battles while fighting her own. Which would be the end of her?

A Private War (2018)

Plot

Marie Colvin (Pike) loses her eye in a Sri Lankan ambush after interviewing a rebel leader. She journeys far and wide to the most war-torn places, trying to let the wider world know the human side of conflict; the innocent civilians that are caught up in the bloodshed and violent chess games that more powerful men play. She constantly puts herself in the most dangerous places, risking life, limb and eye to get the stories out there that people need to hear.
We follow Marie all over the world to places like Liberia, where she interviews Gaddafi, and the Syrian city of Homs that is under constant siege. The bullets rain down and the ceilings cave in as Marie lets the trauma she has witnessed take control and drive her to the edge. Her photographer, Paul Conroy (Dornan) is a strength beside her but he cannot save her from herself. A results-driven and unsympathetic editor at her newspaper doesn’t allow her to rest and take a break, ultimately driving her towards destruction.

Rosamund Pike, Raad Rawi, Jamie Dornan, and Emil Hajj in A Private War (2018)
Conroy, Colvin and Gaddafi

Verdict

There is not much hope or happiness present in this film. What it does do is it brings a human perspective to the table regarding war. It is easy to look at an article online or in the paper about a conflict far away and brush it aside from your mind. We already have enough to worry about don’t we? This film reminds us that we are all one race. Our brothers and sisters are out there dying in rubble and decimated rural lands and we are safe. But, if we know more about it we can possibly do something, or spread the message that it is not OK.

Rosamund Pike is superb as Marie Colvin. It was surreal to see the real Marie in an interview at the end of the movie and realise that Pike had absolutely nailed her voice. She spirals throughout the movie. She reaches depths that no person should ever reach but she is constantly reminded of the plight of others through her work. Pike portrays this hollow existence superbly. We feel helpless for her and know there is no saving grace for this fallen angel.

Dornan suits the look of a war photographer. His Liverpudlian accent may have slipped a few times amid the bombs and the debris but he looks the part.

Rosamund Pike and Jamie Dornan in A Private War (2018)

This film also raises a lot of valid points about mental health and how sometimes it is OK to ask for help or step away. People may use you for your own benefit. Sometimes the truth is more impportant than your own safety. Sometimes you have to pay the ultimate price. Most of the time, though, people have ulterior motives.

This movie was based on the Vanity Fair article written by Marie Brenner in 2012. It has inspired me to read more about Marie Colvin’s life and to read the original article. This movie is not suitable for a Friday night at home relaxing. It is something you should watch knowing that it will stay with you. And isn’t that what all great art should do?