‘1917’ reviews round-up: New WW1 movie is ‘an astonishing piece of filmmaking’

1917 arrives in UK cinemas tomorrow, set during the First World War.

The all-star cast includes Colin Firth (Pride & Prejudice), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Andrew Scott (Fleabag), Richard Madden (Bodyguard), Mark Strong (Shazam!), Daniel Mays (Line of Duty), Adrian Scarborough (Christopher Robin), Nabhaan Rizwan (Informer), Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones), Jamie Parker (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child).

Presented in one continuous shot, it’s directed by Sam Mendes, who made the last two James Bond adventures, Skyfall and Spectre.


The official synopsis reads: “At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission.

“In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.”

We’ve rounded up a selection of reviews to help you decide if you’d like to watch it:


“Almost everything you’ve ever seen in a war film is here. But never quite like this. It is very much a stylistic exercise, but if you’re going to do that, you have to really go for it. And 1917 really, really goes for it … it’s an astonishing piece of filmmaking, portraying war with enormous panache.” ★★★★ – Empire


“Sam Mendes’s film may have won two Golden Globes, but it feels more like a lifeless video game.” ★★★ – The Telegraph


“…1917 is impressive but oddly distancing; ultimately stirring but too often gimmicky. While its visual language and subjective camera might hold promise for conveying the suffering and sacrifice of World War I to a generation raised on video games and virtual reality, there are moments when 1917 feels as rote as any other exercise in leveling-up. Thankfully, the film is anchored by a lead performance that overcomes its self-imposed limitations.” – Washington Post


“…a film that is tense, exhilarating and profoundly moving … Filming in extremely long takes and making as few editing cuts as possible, he creates the illusion of one continuous movement as the soldiers run through trenches and across muddy fields. The technique is dazzling, but it is more than a stunt. It enhances tension and immediacy, allowing us to feel connected to the two heroes.” ★★★★★ – BBC Culture


“WWI film exposes the limitations of immersive filmmaking … While the two-take structure works well for ramping up the claustrophobia, it also necessitates constant action. And so, far from giving us the sense that these are ordinary soldiers, Blake and Schofield are put through the kind of elaborate set pieces that wouldn’t feel alien to Indiana Jones.” ★★★ – The Independent


“…a carefully organized and sanitized war picture from Sam Mendes that turns one of the most catastrophic episodes in modern times into an exercise in preening showmanship.” – New York Times


“Sam Mendes turns western front horror into a single-shot masterpiece … This phantasmagoric first world war nightmare from the British director is ambitious and unshakeable storytelling … 1917 is Mendes’s most purely ambitious and passionate picture since his misunderstood and under-appreciated Jarhead of 2005. It’s bold, thrilling film-making.” ★★★★★ – The Guardian


1917 can’t help but pull you away from the intense experiences of its constantly on-the-move characters to demand you pay attention to how difficult it was to achieve what’s onscreen while you watch it — to dwell on the mechanics of all of its more intricate moments.” – Vulture


“…the craft on display doesn’t take away from MacKay and Chapman’s performances; their exhibitions of bravery, terror, loyalty, determination and desperation are never overshadowed by the camerawork. – The Wrap


“If you’re a fan of breathing, then 1917 might not be the movie for you, but you’d be missing out on an astonishing experience. Directed by Sam Mendes, a lot has been made of the technical choice to shoot the movie as though it’s one continuous two-hour shot. But all that actually matters is that 1917 is really, really good. Tense, powerful and breathtaking, 1917 is a visceral movie you won’t forget in a hurry.” ★★★★★ – Digital Spy


1917 out now in the US and is released in the UK on Friday 10th January.

Skyfall is available on DVD on Amazon.