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By midlandsmovies, Feb 15 2020 07:09PM



1917 (2020) Dir. Sam Mendes


Two young soldiers, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are tasked with delivering a message to the front line so a platoon of fellow soldiers avoid an ambush in Sam Mendes’ new WW1 film 1917. Leaving the trenches and entering enemy territory the pair need to deliver the warning to save 1600 lives, but in the process have to protect their own fragile lives in the war zone of northern France.


Mendes stages his film around a Birdman style “single take” which puts the audience in the action, takes you on a journey and forces the viewer to see through the unblinking eye of a soldier. It opens with apparently endless trenches with the Steadicam shooting reminiscent of Kubrick’s Paths of Glory whilst the eerie musical tones echoing WW2 film Dunkirk help keep everything on a knife edge.


The whole set up is therefore simple but effective as the boys avoid German shells and disused guns whilst dead horses, bodies and wounded recruits litter their experience. Always in danger, we feel it along with them every step of the way and a trip wire scene with a rat is phenomenal in its explosive power.


Both main actors are incredibly relatable as they (and we) bond over personal stories to keep their spirits up. As they venture further from their line, they encounter abandoned buildings as the German’s undertake a tactical retreat. Moments of levity stop 1917 from becoming a moribund hellscape but it doesn’t skimp on the atrocities of The Great War either. Its impressive technical construction sees cameras floating over water, planes crashing and night turning to day seemingly in the same one-take.


The “huge-ness” of their mission is contrasted nicely with more mundane tasks as they work against small problems like a van getting stuck in mud. And the film’s focus on these small moments between soldiers makes a mid-film surprise even more of an emotional trauma for the viewer.


1917 ends up being a fantastic war film taking new risks in a genre that has been covered many times in cinema. The film appears to have the most natural shooting style in the world. But then you stop and think about it and marvel at its complexity, audacity and the one-shot camerawork is as unescapable as the horror of war itself.


★★★★ ½


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Nov 3 2016 04:12PM

Dr. Strange (2016) DIr. Scott Derrickson


A former neurosurgeon embarks upon a journey of self-healing only to find himself drawn into a world of mysterious arts.


Successful neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) falls apart after a tragic car accident leaves him unable to continue with his work. In denial, he pushes for a number of pioneering treatments in order to regain full use of his hands, however when reality hits him that he will never operate again, he begins to look at somewhat alternative methods. After arriving at a location in Nepal, he is introduced to The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who informs him that he must set aside all ego and learn the secrets of a mystic world and alternative dimensions. However, before long, Strange finds himself as an intermediary between the real world and everything beyond this - something that is slightly more than he bargained for...


So, my birthday present from my best friend came in the form of a cinema trip to see the latest edition to Marvel's Cinematic Universe, Doctor Strange. Quite a good birthday present I must say, even if it wasn't quite in line with what we had expected.


Straight off the bat, it has to be said that Benedict Cumberbatch's performance was rather wonderful. He, of course, played the film's title character, and was every bit as impressive as some of the dimension-defying abilities Strange eventually possessed. Despite not being the most instantly likeable character, Cumberbatch did provide him with a certain charm that did well to win the viewer round.


With every hero, there must come a villain, and that villain came in the form of Mads Mikkelsen's Kaecilius. If I'm completely honest with you, I have to say that I was left slightly disappointed by Mikkelsen's performance, or perhaps the amount of it that we saw. He wasn't in the film for nearly as long as I had hoped he would be, and I feel like he was kind of wasted in the role for how little we actually saw of him. Yes, this was the first Doctor Strange film, so I understand that it is a introductory film of some sort, however, there really wasn't enough of him here, and from what I saw, it doesn't look as though we're going to be seeing much more of him any time soon.


The film's cast was made up by quite a few serious names. Alongside Cumberbatch and Mikklesen were the likes of Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams, and this was something else that worked in favour of the film.


I stated at the beginning that I didn't feel the film was as good as I had been expecting it to be. Despite this, it was still up there as one of 2016's better films, but not among the best. However, there is part of me that thinks that the only reason it was still above average for the first time of viewing is because of the brilliant visual effects. There was a hint of Inception with the bending of matter and dimensions and this was very good to see, however if it wasn't for this, I may have very likely felt considerably more let down by the film, and it is for this reason that I probably won't be able to watch the film for a second time in the near future.


All in all, Doctor Strange is a half-decent popcorn film that most cinema goers will enjoy, however will most probably not be blown away by. the cast and the acting were superb, even if perhaps screen time was not distributed as I'd have liked it to be. The storyline is something we have seen before, but is held up by the visual effects that are something quite special, but might have lost some of their wonder when it comes to a second viewing of the film.


7/10


Kira Comerford

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