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1917: Mendes’ Single Shot Misses Badly

Posted by March 23rd, 2020 No Comments »

1917 (2019)
Directed by Sam Mendes
Starring Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays & Colin Firth

So they say limitation breeds genius? Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), Noe’s Irréversible (2002) and Enter the Void (2009), and even Silent House (2011) benefited from from a “single shot” (wink, wink) approach? Could Academy Award Winner Sam Mendes benefit from this limitation as well?

By far the slickest, most vibrant looking war film to date, 1917 feels like what third person shooter games will feel like in the future. Bringing the suspension of disbelief to an all time minimum, I sometimes felt it was me outrunning a crashing biplane or dodging enemy fire. The action sequences are exciting; they made me squirm in my seat. But where the aforementioned “single shot” films made their characters far more real, 1917 did the opposite, leaving them to feel like hollow, over-the-shoulder-avatars.

“Don’t worry about acting, this is all about my continuous shot.”

WWI changed the way we kill each other. It also decimated an entire generation. 1917 and its technical achievement didn’t convey that terrible loss. It felt like Call of Duty, not one of the worst tragedies in human history.

To summarize: Mendes’ “single shot” looks marvelous, but his film didn’t benefit.

If fellow “single shot” films Rope and Irréversible are an A and Enter the Void is a B+, and even if clunky horror film Silent House is a C, then 1917 is a disappointing C-.

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