The Two Popes Review

Religion has always been, and will always be, a divisive topic. As far as religion goes, there is no bigger figurehead than the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church, whose full title is bafflingly long (seriously Google it) and is supposedly the representation of God on Earth.

Whatever your views on religion, and the papacy, it’s almost guaranteed that you know about him, and chances are good that you’d remember watching the events depicted in this film as they happened.

Here’s a quick cliff notes version. In 2013 Pope Benedict XVI resigned, this was quite unexpected as no Pope had resigned for roughly 700 years. Popey B was a hardline conservative kind of Catholic, staunchly opposed to any reforms, seen by many as long overdue, by contrast, his successor Pope Francis (Popey F) was very much at the forefront of the reform movement.

So it’s within these event that we find this film based, a relationship between two holy men who see issues in very different ways, but are bonded together by their core beliefs; while also exploring what led to this almost unheard of event.

It is very much Popey F’s show here though, the narrative is strongly focused on his journey through the priesthood and eventual succession to the Papacy, while exploring the differing history of Argentina (his home country) as a whole.

This is best exemplified by a protracted sequence shot in black and white set in 1956 Buenos Aires which depicts the future Pope before he started in his path of celibacy, enjoying a dance and courting, gradually unfolding to show us his path to a holier calling. This is probably my favourite sequence in the film, it does a lot for the character to show the journey to where he ends up, one we don’t necessarily get with his predecessor, it also helps that its shot so beautifully.

Actually, the whole film has a wonderful, luxurious feel to it, especially in the long sections set in the Vatican, on painstakingly recreated sets whose grandeur matches the originals; it’s brightness perfectly translating to film and making for some excellent visual choices, whether their using the whole of the room for a shot, or just a section, the settings and cinematography never stops feeling grand and inspired.

No matter what your feelings towards the people portrayed in this film in real life, you can’t help but warm to them because of how they are written and acted. Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) gives off a weary, tired air, like a man who can’t carry the weight he’s expected to carry any longer, and his opposite number Francis (Jonathan Pryce) is frustrated and maybe even a little disillusioned with how the church runs, their stances putting them ostensibly at loggerheads, but the longer they spend together, the more their fondness for each other visibly grows.

The pair of performances of the titular Two Popes are measured and subtle, each man approaching their own characters differently, they both feel like they have weights on their shoulders that they allow themselves to release over the course of the narrative, and the pedigree of the actors chosen means that they fall naturally into place.

Anthony Hopkins in particular is on top form here, after a few questionable decisions in past years, with this and TV’s Westworld, it feels like he’s finding a refreshing energy again, and when he’s on top form he can still be one of the best screen actors in the world.

Both men are entrusted to carry this movie pretty much on their own, the framework never really changes, bar a few establishing scenes and flashbacks, the interactions between the two Pontiffs are the spine of the film, and for a film with such a dry sounding premise the fact that it more than pulls it off is remarkable in itself.

Yes, I suppose that’s my main criticism really, is that it can feel like a bit of a dry film, like it’s going out of its way to not upset the Catholic Church. It could have been more confrontational with its material, but I think it’s all the better for having a contemplative tone, and focusing on the two men as characters, it made the m very easy to warm to, even if it could have been more.

I enjoyed The Two Popes, but I doubt its a film I’ll be in a rush to revisit. Its performances and grand aesthetic carry a rather pedestrian and dry premise, and while it may prove to be memorable, amidst the waves of choices for viewers eyeballs, I wouldn’t blame anyone for skimming over this, but once you’ve seen it and been charmed by it, I doubt you’ll watch it and feel the same way.

I didn’t really know what to expect going in, whether it be a scathing indictment of the church and its followers or propaganda for it, and in truth, I think it’s neither. A passive portrayal of what may broadly be the truth that makes no great statements and challenges no ideals; and that’s fine, not every film has to start a revolution. I even managed to enjoy it quite a lot, but as I say, it’s not likely to be one that will stick with me.

Marriage Story Review

Last year, in my Klaus review, I said that I intended to pay closer attention to Netflix originals in the future. Such is the way films are going that a big chunk of the nominated films this year were exclusive to the streaming platform, and it has in the past represented a gaping hole in my review spectrum.

But, as I spend so much time focused on cinematic releases, I often find myself behind on streaming releases, so I decided to remedy that by finally getting around to the first of a few Netflix films I plan on watching, Marriage Story.

Directed by Noah Baumbach (the same creator responsible for previously well-received Netflix exclusive The Meyorowitz Stories) Marriage Story is a brutally honest portrayal of divorce and it’s effects in ways rarely seen on the big screen. In many ways it has all the hallmarks of a classic love story, but with the angle of portraying what can be a very difficult, emotional time.

Baumbach’s approach to this film was supposedly inspired by his own experiences with divorce, and it shows. The film has a natural feel that can only be achieved by someone who truly knows the subject they’re documenting.

This is helped by the style in which the film is shot, making use of long takes, with two-shots and close-ups to lend the film a personal feel that is very hard to achieve as naturally as it does. There are moments of monologue and emotional turmoil captured so perfectly to emphasis each characters feelings at that time, across a wide range of emotions. A character can go from regretful and full of sorrow, to fury and righteous anger, never feeling incongruous in doing so thanks to its almost flawless script and simple, yet effective cinematography.

Speaking of dialogue, this is where the film really comes into its own. Making a film script sound like familiar people having believable conversations is extremely tricky, even if you can capture it, it may not translate well onto film as real conversation doesn’t really flow that well, Marriage Story takes cinematic dialogue and realistic dialogue and marries them (no pun intended) seamlessly.

The monologues are pitch-perfect, resisting the urge to be self-indulgent, the dialogue allows the film to flow extremely well. Making characters converse the best way to move the story forward, it doesn’t rush its characters or its narrative. In many ways the whole ‘film’ aspect takes a back seat, sometimes settling on one camera angle and allowing us to watch and engage with the characters and their interactions, which really helps endear them to us, it makes us care because we recognise these characters from somewhere, we may have even had these conversations, and that’s a rare sweet spot to find.

The biggest positive to come out of Marriage Story both critically and in terms of award nominations is the acting, which is phenomenal. Fronted by a pair of powerhouse performances from Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, this tale of two people entangled in a potentially messy divorce could have all fallen apart had the leads not absolutely knocked it out of the park, which they did, and then some.

Both performances are excellent, but if pushed I’d probably single out Driver as the best performance, maybe even challenging Joaquin Phoenix in terms of the push towards Best Actor at this year’s Oscars. His character develops before our eyes, we see him in positive moments, and we see him at his worst. While this is the case for both lead characters, it’s much more apparent in his, as we see him go from a highly emotionally blocked character to one brimming with anger and despair, it’s a juxtaposition pulled off so delicately that he can make you angry and sympathetic, all within the space of a few lines, it is a truly masterful performance.

ScarJo is also up for Best Leading Actress for this film (and Best Supporting for Jojo Rabbit) and she is also outstanding, her character might not have the same growth and developed arc as her leading mans, but her character is just as complex and layered, like her performance. I was impressed by her in Jojo Rabbit and utterly spellbound in this film.

In case you haven’t inferred from the last few paragraphs, I adored Wedding Story. It took a subject that is incredibly difficult to handle, and made it into an engaging character drama, concerning characters who resemble flawed, realistic human beings. I don’t think it’s perfect, a few of the characters felt like overkill to me, and a few of the supporting players could have done with a bit more to do, but in streamlining its narrative, it keeps a tight focus on those around whom the story revolves. It may not be perfection, but it’s damn close.

Bad Boys For Life Review

After the last few years, and after some truly terrible choices, I can only hope that Will Smith has fired his agent. Starting with 2015’s Suicide Squad, maybe even earlier, he hasn’t made a single good choice in the roles he accepts. He’s really been through the doldrums in the last few years, there was the atrocious Bright, then just last year there was the one-two punch of Aladdin and Gemini Man, unnecessary and dull respectively.

I can’t say I have the same nostalgia as some people towards the Bad Boys films. They’re Michael Bay films, and you all know how I feel about him, and their the kind of action films that make my eyes glaze over, loud and dumb with no substance. So I can’t say I was brimming with confidence leading into this new installment, but I was also willing to give it a fair crack.

We rejoin detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Barnett (Will Smith and Martin Laurence, respectively) a few decades older, but no wiser – in Mike’s case anyway – but just when Marcus is planning his retirement, following the birth of his first grandchild, an attempt on Mike’s life leads them on one last case.

On the surface, the plot seems very cookie cutter, the structure of an old cop nearing retirement is pretty much a cliche, and I was pretty much ready to write off Bad Boys For Life after the first overexposed, colour-enhanced car chase, something out of left field happened that sucked me right in like a thousand dollar escort.

Now, talking about this is going to be difficult, as it’s a pretty major plot point, and my usual rule of thumb is to not give away any plot points that aren’t revealed in the trailers, I figure anything that is known about the film pre-release is fair game, so this huge plot point in which the whole narrative hinges on is very much off the table for me.

It was a bold move nonetheless, one that immediately raises the stakes of the film, as well as making us invest in these characters all within the first act, along with other brave plot decisions raises its profile above the first two films in a heartbeat.

There’s an interesting background dynamic also with some younger characters, a group of new cops, very much of the new school, very high tech and tactically minded that is constantly at loggerheads with Mike Lowrey and his ‘bad boy’ image, there’s some interesting tension between Mike and some of the more fresh-faced agents, one of which he has romantic history with, another one he is in an alpha-male contest with, it adds some interesting narrative creases that shows how much the procedure has changed in the past twenty years.

Another thing about BBFL that surprised me was just how much it made me laugh. Martin Laurence has incredible timing with his one-liners and sarcasm, and while I do think it may have leaned on the ‘stereotypical black guy’ speak, it’s at least in line with previous instalments, and the two leads pull it off so well with their effortless charm.

Nobody was more surprised at how funny this film was than me I assure you, and I was even more shocked that it manages to mix this with a compelling narrative, with actual feasible stakes, even if the strength of the threat is at times fantastical. It pulls off the action buddy-cop thing better than most I’ve seen attempt it, enhancing its profile with some genuinely unpredictable twists throughout the second and third acts.

With this film and Bumblebee last year, I’m starting to notice a pattern. Maybe franchises attached to Michael Bay could actually be good, providing they’re wrenched from his ghoulish hands and given to someone half-competent (he does show up here, in a cameo that tested my patience, but he was gone soon after) and Bay Boys For Life isn’t just competent, it’s good, it might even be really good. It manages to rise above its status as a ‘loud, dumb action movie’ by combining an engaging narrative with likeable characters. Who knew that was all it takes to make good entertainment?

Bombshell Review

If you’d have told me in about 2010 that Jay Roach, the director of the Austin Powers films, would make an Oscar-nominated feminist film about taking on powerful men with sexual harassment lawsuits, I would have questioned your sanity.

After all, his most famous films aren’t exactly remembered for their positive portrayals of women. They were either objects of Austin Powers’ lust, or weapons with guns instead of breasts.

However, since those films came to an end (a sort of end, a fourth film has been touted for years) he has been drifting into more serious topics, specifically in his last film Trumbo, which looked at the struggles of a writer blacklisted during McCarthy-era America for communist sympathies.

So it appears that Jay has a political streak in him that he is currently in the middle of exploring, and Bombshell is very much a film for the modern age, in fact, the events depicted in the film could be considered a catalyst for the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, leading to a string of victims coming forward with allegations.

The film focuses around the conservative American network Fox News, and its former CEO Roger Ailes, who was at the centre of the allegations from former, and current at the time, female employees. Specifically looking at the cases of Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) and composite character Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie). The first two of these being representations of real-life women who blew the whistle on Ailes.

The film goes through peaks and troughs throughout its run-time, going between heart-wrenchingly affecting, and light comedic moments. At certain points, it feels like Jay’s instincts take over and he gravitates towards the more comedic side, but there are also times when we feel a strong pair of hands on the reins, portraying the events with the gravitas and emotional impact they deserve.

The moments of emotional depth are lent their gut-punch-like impact by some terrific performances. The highlight of these performances, for me, was Margot Robbie, despite her character being one of the fictional creations, she has some scenes that portrays the struggle these women went through perfectly, and her feelings of guilt afterwards. There’s one scene in particular towards the films conclusion that had such an incredible impact that it brought me seriously close to tears, a rare feat indeed.

She isn’t alone however, Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman also portray two women wrestling with their own interests, and the interests of all the women around them; and who may come after them. They are shown to be people with flaws, who are questioning their own implicitness in the misdemeanours of their all-encompassing boss. There’s a speech given by Theron about all the reasons why women (or anyone else) won’t come forward with allegations, it’s a power dynamic more than anything, and it perfectly frames what this film is trying to say.

I also liked how the film is structured. Rather than portraying it as a straight dramatic retelling, the creative team behind it tinker with the formula somewhat. Given some of the film a documentary-like feel, the characters address the camera, and by extension the audience. Giving us a tour of the building where the bulk of the narrative takes place, and informing us who the major players are. It’s very effective in this form, giving it a certain credence, and is successful at a format that is somewhat experimental in feel, it’s an angle I think Vice tried last year, but where that film failed was telling the story of a man who wasn’t likeable or relatable, whereas this film has characters that are, while flawed, somewhat empathetic.

I do feel like it is a bit scattershot in its approach, but as a film with a message, and a relevant one at that, it sticks to its guns, makes us sympathise with the victims, and more importantly, doesn’t pull any punches towards the guilty party, John Lithgow also deserves a mention here for making Ailes seem innately hate-able just by the way he sits, dominating the scenes like Jabba the Hutt, barking demands from his chair and shouting down anyone who dares speak up, he’s the classic character who thinks he’s untouchable, and even when he’s brought down, still won’t admit any fault. He’s a classic narcissist portrayed excellently here.

In conclusion then, I feel like Bombshell’s timely release makes it seem all the more poignant, an interesting structure plays home to some fantastic performances that are being rightly recognised by award ceremonies now. A drastic turnaround from Roach’s early works, it shows a strong political ear and a dynamic way of portraying difficult issues with an easily approachable touch, but one that can land a hammer-like blow to the audiences emotions.

Uncut Gems Review

Let me take a moment to explain about anxiety. Imagine for a moment your brain is not housed inside a head, and is instead housed inside a beehive, where the bees tend to hold a lot of raves and shout your biggest failings to you at all hours of the day. That is what anxiety feels like, to me at least.

I bring this up because Uncut Gems is essentially that, a two-hour anxiety attack which a lot of people seem to have enjoyed immensely, and to which I couldn’t really invest.

But we get ahead of ourselves, let’s lay some groundwork shall we?

Uncut Gems is the new film from the Safdie brothers, the guys responsible for Good Time, the 2017 crime caper that helped show the world how far Robert Pattinson has come since he was a sparkly vampire with no personality.

It focuses on a jewellery dealer, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) who suffers with a crippling gambling addiction which has left him several thousands of dollars in debt; through a number of contrivances he ends up in possession of a very valuable gem which could solve all his problems, but in reality they make them all so much worse.

There was an overwhelming feeling present in both this film and Good Time, and that is pressure. The audience is made to feel under pressure as much as the main characters. This can be achieved by characterisation, and the choices characters make, as well as with several filmmaking techniques, such as multiple close-ups and jerker camera movement. In this case, it uses all of the above, it has a hyper-realistic, yet fantastical feel to the way it’s filmed that, at times, made my teeth itch. It’s a difficult feeling to describe, but imagine you’re trapped in a rickety elevator with the characters, and that’s roughly the feeling of nausea it causes.

Whereas this has in the past immersed me in films, as long as I’m feeling something then I know the film is working on some level, but I just felt very detached from this film, I found it very difficult to invest in the characters and all I was left with was the anxious feeling of knowing something terrible is about to happen, as well as all the ‘head full of bees’ business I alluded to in the opening paragraph, which occurs whenever there’s a dialogue heavy scene, as all the characters talk over each other and it makes it difficult to focus on one thing.

Maybe the film is doing its job too well in this case, maybe this was the intended outcome, in which case bully for the directors for achieving their vision, but it doesn’t mean I’m entertained, which is what, I remind you, films are for.

As I said, I found the characters difficult to like and empathise with. Don’t get me wrong, they’re very well acted, Sandler in particular is a revelation, and a million miles away from his comedic nadir, but his character is an arse, and not even a likeable arse, as some characters are. He’s a volatile mess of a character who shouts at his problems in the hope they’ll go away, rather than face up to them. Maybe my main frustration is that you want him to do the sensible and blatantly obvious thing to improve his life, but he’s so set on self-destruction that he carries on down his path of lying and gambling, until even his wife says she can’t stand to look at him.

This doesn’t make him sympathetic, it makes him frustrating, and if you tell me that’s the point, I’ll tell you to stop being so pretentious.

A film that actively makes me anxious could be, and has been, a positive thing. So long as it has a compelling narrative with characters we can connect with, and while this film has several things that really make me want to like it (its leading performance and cinematography for example) it’s abrasiveness and obtuseness that makes it difficult for me to invest.

Maybe it’s just me and I’ve missed the point, there were aspects I enjoyed about it, despite my comparisons to bees and their proximity to my brain, I like the dialogue, it feels natural and fresh, even if it is occasionally confusing. Then there’s Sandler, who is sensational, something I never thought I’d say again, but it just doesn’t come together well for me, I’m glad I saw it, and I’m sure others will get more out of it than I will, but I couldn’t get behind the characters, and as a result the film leaves me cold.

Still, as a film it is more worth your time than the usual mainstream fare, and there are glimpses of greatness shimmering away like the titular gems, it just feels like there’s too much rock covering the diamonds.

Richard Jewell Review

There are many things that astonish me about Clint Eastwood. His directorial talents being the main one, but his longevity and work ethic in his advanced age is another. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which a nearly 90 year old man can possibly still have something relevant to say.

It’s fair to say that Clint has had his fill of ‘true story’ films lately, in fact, his entire 2010’s can be categorised as his ‘true story’ phase, I’m not sure what attracts him to them, but he sure likes making them. There’s American Sniper, Sully, Jersey Boys (which in a way is a true story), J. Edgar and even last years underwhelming The Mule had its roots in a true story.

We’ve changed focus since then though, we’re no longer documenting the comings and goings of a nonagenarian drug mule, instead focusing on a slightly sadder tale; one that casts its gaze at the media and their endless quest for stories over truth, which is guaranteed to make it relevant in pretty much any age, so long as there are journalists, and vultures to compare them too.

Yes, Richard Jewell is about, shock horror, Richard Jewell, a slightly odd fellow who happened to be the security guard who discovered a bomb in Centennial Park, Atlanta in 1996, and then found himself at the centre of a media storm.

Part of the films focus is how Richard as a person seems to fit a media profile of a ‘wannabe hero’ and in portraying that, the film obviously has to show why people would think that. Not to justify that thinking, but to make us feel like this is a plausible thought process to go through. So of course Richard has a few character quirks, he’s a loner, lives with his mom, and harbours a desire to once again become a police officer, after being dismissed from the force before.

Incidentally, we see Richard in a number of security jobs in the films opening half, and it’s unintentional I’m sure, but the sight of him twirling his baton when he’s clearly a college campus security guard along with a ‘Police’ cap, is hilarious. This might even be to the films detriment, as it makes Richard look more than a little, and I’m trying to find the most eloquent way of putting this, slow. The extent to which he’s willing to fold under pressure to authority is laughable, but it is used later in the narrative, once that very authority he craves turns against him.

I suppose that’s a nice little narrative thread to pull on, the man who so badly wants to be a police officer that he admits to reading the penal code every night being targeted by the very establishment he adores. It does make him look, as I say, a few cards short of a deck, but it also lends him a sort of innocent charm, in a way.

The character he most reminded me of was Raymond Babbitt, Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man, you tell him not to talk to the FBI, and the next second he’s trying to be their friend, telling them to take what they want, it’s frustrating, yes, but in a way that endears Richard to the viewer, we feel sorry for him, because he’s a soft-hearted man who’s accused of doing something he wouldn’t even begin to comprehend.

That’s what got me the most about this film, is how it endeared Richard to the audience, it goes that extra mile to show you the makings of his character, even down to showing you his quaint home life at home with his mother, it makes him the most empathetic character in the world, even when he’s being a bit over-zealous with his duties, like trying to search a college students room for drinking on campus, we can’t find it in ourselves to dislike him, because he’s so ineffectual and, above all, good-hearted.

The scenes immediately before and after the explosion are the best examples of this, without his insistence to protocol, the events could have unfolded a lot differently, and people don’t take him seriously, but he rolls with it, and after the event, he’s seen to be so selfless as to make sure others are safe before calling his mother to tell her that he’s okay, and it’s little details like that which really add that bit of polish to his character.

In other places, the writing can be a bit sloppy. I wasn’t a great fan of how the film portrayed Kathy Scruggs or Tom Shaw (Olivia Wilde and Jon Hamm, respectively) who play the journalist who first breaks the story of Jewell being a suspect (Scruggs) and the FBI agent pursuing the case. They both seem corrupted and out-of-sync with what their characters should be, even when the obvious is staring them in the face, they rigidly refuse to look deeper, and doggedly pursue Jewell.

Scruggs gets a little bit of retribution, but she doesn’t seem to be a character with an arc, just a part of the plot that is designed to be the antithesis of its lead and be contemptible, even before she breaks the story, her character is written to be such an awful person that we could easily disconnect with her.

These issues aside, I think Richard Jewell really comes together as a film by the last act, it’s competently shot, as we can expect from Eastwood, even though it’s not his best effort, there are still some great uses of framing and light-and-shade. Not to mention some wonderful performances in the mix too.

The constantly excellent Sam Rockwell plays Jewell’s lawyer, Watson Bryant, a character diametrically opposed to Richard, yet he seems to be the only one fighting his corner, Kathy Bates recently received an Oscar nomination for her role as Richard’s mother, who is in many ways the films emotional core, out of her depth just as much as Richard, and even more helpless.

I think the real headline here though should be the breakout performance from Paul Walter Hauser as the titular character; all the redeeming features I’ve mentioned about the character of Richard Jewell can be attributed to his performance, in less-than-capable hands, the character could have been the centre of derision, Hauser makes him a sympathetic everyman, who is confused, angry and hurt by the situation he’s in. He’s a tour-de-force, and he’s what really brings the film together for me.

I think that should be the lasting memory of this film, some shaky writing is redeemed by some wonderful performances, and a sturdy, experienced pair of hands on the reins. It may not reach the heights Eastwood has previously reached, but it gives us a memorable performance within an interesting story. There may be life in the old dog yet.

1917 Review

The First World War is barely touched by film when compared to its successor; I think it’s fair to say that we’ve had more World War II films than we know what to do with, but First World War films are much harder to come by.

I think a big part of that is that, unlike WWII, the First World War wasn’t as morally cut-and-dry, there wasn’t an easy way of distinguishing who was right and who was wrong, it was just a whole mess of treaties falling one-by-one like a horrific Mouse Trap, yes it was Brits vs Germans, but they weren’t the obvious villains the Nazis were. The First World War is overall just a bit of a mess, and therefore it’s hard to carve out a narrative of ‘good vs evil’ within the confines of that particular war.

So, along comes Sam Mendes to try and circumnavigate this issue, armed with the war stories his grandfather told, and an urge to make a film to honour him.

The way he chose to do this was by making the film in quite a different way, you see 1917 is presented as if it is one continuous long shot, taking place in real time. Not an original idea, but certainly new for a war film, which can bring a new layer of intensity for sure.

‘Intense’ is probably the best way to describe this film actually. It shows us the journey of two of the men on the front line, William and Tom (played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, respectively), as they deliver a message that could save hundreds of lives, however it also requires them to cross no mans land and into unknown territory.

This is a case of a filmmaking gimmick improving the film it’s used on, perhaps ‘gimmick’ is too strong a word, but that’s what it felt like when I first heard about it, like it was using unconventional shooting methods for the sake of it, rather than for the sake of serving the films intentions and message. I’m happy to admit when I’m wrong though, and I was wrong here.

The constantly moving camera makes it feel like we’re there with them, crawling across bodies and filth on the front line, it really creates a unique claustrophobia about the film, especially in the more enclosed settings, as we follow the two leads closely at all times, all the while taking in the various scenery surrounding a war zone.

It’s in that scenery where the film really packs a punch for me; it does not shy away from showing the horrors of war at all, at one point, our leads are given directions by what corpses are left where on the battlefield, and it’s done with such mundanity that it suggests that this is somehow an everyday occurrence now, that these men have somehow gotten used to.

Mendes uses this to create a unique atmosphere of bleakness, a heavy blanket of impending dread lays over the narrative really from the word go, with everything collaborating to create an anxious environment, in which we don’t know what hangs around the next corner. The music will subtlety but definitely hint at upcoming danger as the camera sits behind the two soldiers, inviting us to be passive observers

So, it’s obvious to say that from a filmmaking perspective, this film is astounding. But it’s the ways that is keeps surprising that really makes it stand out; how it keeps a continuous shot through several different changes of perspective, scene and situation. It keeps the flow going from silently creeping around each corner, to frantic action scenes, never once losing its focus. If you look hard, you can see the cuts, sure, but it does such a good job at doing what it set out to do that you don’t WANT to.

Acting-wise, it’s very heavy on its two leads, with each supporting character only appearing in their individual situations, for such a burden to be placed on two relative newcomers was a brave move, but ultimately, the correct one.

It reminds me of Dunkirk, in a few ways actually, but mainly in its casting. It has the big names yes, but they’re peripheral characters, a light presence, instead it focuses on two fresh faces, forced to show their worth under the most intense (there’s that word again) circumstances. Both of the leads are marvellous in their own parts, each navigating the different foibles and layers of their characters extremely well, delivering an electrifying, and deeply emotional, pair of stories.

I feel like my main issue for the last few films I’ve reviewed has been its length or pacing, and I have to admit, there are moments in 1917 that I feel could have been cut down or more expediently paced, but I suppose when you’re married to a concept such as this films, you lose a certain grip over the story’s pacing.

This film has been high on the list of most reviewers over the past month and I can see why. A war film like few others, it grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags you along for the journey with two likeable and engaging characters, surrounding by unflinching depictions of the hellscape that surrounded them. A concept that could have been held down by an unnecessary gimmick is instead a staggeringly well-realised masterpiece, showing a filmmaker at the top of their game.