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Review: Gimmicky '1917' is still a marvelous WWI film

(center) George MacKay as Schofield in "1917," co-written and directed by Sam Mendes.{ }(Photo: Universal)

4 out of 5 Stars
Sam Mendes
Writer: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays
Genre: War, Drama
Rated: R for violence, some disturbing images, and language

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: Lance Corporal Blake is tasked to, with only the aid of his fellow soldier Lance Corporal Schofield, to sneak deep into enemy territory to deliver a message that may keep his brother and 1,600 other soldiers from walking into a trap.

Review: There’s a gimmick in “1917.” The film goes to great lengths to look like it was essentially shot in one continuous take. Cinematographer Roger Deakins does an extraordinary job working within the film’s parameters. There is a night scene that is as stunning as anything you’ll see in a cinema this year (and in a year featuring a film from Yimou Zhang, that’s really saying something). I just couldn’t stop looking for the seams, the well-hidden cuts masked by digital effects, the movement of the camera or the set or a well-framed shot. I couldn’t stop looking and that kept me from being as immersed in the story as I would have liked to have been.

And yet, even with that distance placed between me and the narrative, the movie is quite good because of a solid script and a compelling performance from George MacKay. MacKay plays Lance Corporal Schofield, a reluctant soldier tasked with helping his fellow soldier, Lance Corporal Blake portrayed by Dean-Charles Chapman, deliver a message to stop a planned offensive attack that will lead directly into a German trap.

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There are some contrived elements, little conveniences in the story, but it rarely goes in the direction you expect as director Sam Mendes and co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns take some bold risks that pay off.

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“1917” is one of the best films to qualify for 2020’s Academy Awards and finished just outside my top 10 movies list. It has already won a pair of Golden Globe for Best Drama Motion Picture and Best Director of a Motion Picture.