Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”, “Skyfall“) returns to form with a daunting war tale through the eyes of two soldiers who have to deliver a message during World War I.
Schofield, George MacKay (“Captain Fantastic”), and Blake, Dean-Charles Chapman (“The King”) have to hand-deliver a message to the 2nd Battalion before their planned attack on the Germany because they believe it could be an ambush. Blake was said to be chosen because his brother is part of that 2nd Battalion.
It is a very simple premise with a very wide execution. What Mendez and Cinematographer Roger Deakins (“Blade Runner 2049“, “Skyfall“) do with this story is outrageously vivid. The wide shots keep you invested on what’s going on in the sky and from afar, and then it quickly turns back into small shots that focus on the two lives that we are following through this harrowing mission.
Deakins is a master of the craft and should definitely be looking at another Oscar nomination for this film. He brings a sense of beauty to a very violent world these soldiers are in, and gives us time to breathe before the unexpected happens.
MacKay and Chapman are great in the roles of what other soldiers see as Messenger One and Messenger Two. They both bring a vibrant look whenever they’re on camera. MacKay makes the most of the meatier role but Chapman stands neck to neck with him when the camera grazes over.
There are few supporting roles played by the best of the best, Andrew Scott (“Fleabag (TV)”) gets to shine early with his minor monologue, Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) and Mark Strong (“The Kingsmen”) are less flashy with their few moments, and lastly Benedict Cumberbatch (“Sherlock (TV)”) gets to have the meatiest role of the group but still refrains to let the other characters shine.
I felt as if this was just a character piece lodged into a War film. The War became third string to Schoefield and Blake and that was perfect! We got to see how these two would come out of their mission instead of trying to figure out how to win a war, like some other war films are being made out to be.
This smaller scale effort left me anxious, scared, sad, angry, and I can thank Mendes for all of that since he wrote the story based on war stories his grandfather used to tell.
I haven’t talked too much about the continuous shot but you already know with Deakins and Mendes at the helm, nothing could go wrong. It never felt forced when we followed the two men as they travelled from barrack to barrack, it felt like this was the way this story was needed to be told. I am so glad they did.