1917 review – 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

Day-lit house of horror … Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay in 1917

Sam Mendes’s 1917 is an amazingly audacious film; as exciting as a heist movie, disturbing as a sci-fi nightmare. Working with co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, he has created a first world war drama of the Western Front and a terrible journey undertaken by two boys like a ghost train ride into a day-lit house of horror, periodically descending into night and then resurfacing into an alien world, bright with menace.

And it’s filmed in one extraordinary single take by cinematographer Roger Deakins, a continuous fluid travelling shot (with digital edits sneaked in, evidently at those moments where we lose sight of them, or in moments of darkness or explosion – but where exactly, I mostly couldn’t tell) .

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