Stars: George Mackay, Dean-Charles Chapman
More likely to be remembered for its technical prowess than thematic power, Sam Mendes’ WWI picture, based on stories from his grandfather Alfred, nevertheless boasts a series of thrilling and horrifying if episodic sequences, alongside the occasional narrative lull. Blake (Chapman) and Schofield (MacKay) are the two Tommies selected by their commanding officer to carry a message to their fellow soldiers in order to call off an advance into a trap set by the Germans and save thousands of lives. Their journey to reach their comrades involves the duo traversing battlefields, dank German bunkers and small burned out towns where they come face to face with their opponents. Mendes films it all as if in one take (in reality it’s long takes edited together), which while delivering an intimate over the shoulder feel, also feels a little too redolent of various levels of a video game. Still, it’s beautifully rendered by veteran cinemaphotographer Roger Deakins, and there are genuinely impressive moments: the tense initial climb out of the trench into no man’s land in broad daylight; a heart-stopping moment in a German trench; and a nightmarish sequence in which Schofield walks through a bombed out village during a furious battle, with the illuminated towering shifting silhouettes rendering the scene the stuff of nightmares.