I was worried I wouldn’t like this film, if only because I’m really bored with films based on the two world wars at the moment. There’s been so many of them and a lot of them haven’t really distinguished themselves enough to stand out (I still can’t remember which of the many Churchill films it was I actually saw). This feeling of boredom was so strong that I wasn’t even going to see this film. That was until I found out it was done as one continuous shot, I like to see interesting films, so I had to see it, and I’m very glad I did. It’s not a film I have much personal love for, it’s not really something I NEED to see again. It is something I’m glad I did see though, it’s a technical masterpiece. Even if you ignore the whole “done like one continuous shot” (well, technically two) it’s a superb film to look at, the cinematography is astounding. There’s a scene late on where the character walks through a bombed town at night, the only light coming from the buildings that are on fire, and it’s absolutely beautiful. The way the shadows interact with the scene is a real masterpiece in film-making, I wish more films did interesting stuff with shadows as they can provide a nice contrast to a scene.
None of this would matter if it wasn’t for the performances and the story, both of which are great. Dean-Charles Chapman (or as I know him: “is that Taron Egerton? Oh it’s not, ah well) has an incredibly difficult performance; especially since he needs to die in real-time on camera from blood loss. This brings me to a moment which I’m amazed they did; when he’s dying (which comes out of nowhere and is a real shock to the audience, in a good way) you can see the colour drain from his face, considering they couldn’t just cut away, apply makeup, then cut back I’m genuinely interested to see how they did this. George MacKay is the best performer though; his character looks absolutely broken by the events of the film, his eyes look haunted. It’s great that Sam Mendes got such accomplished performances from some (let’s face it) relatively unknown performers. Personally, I did find it a bit weird that it had two actors I wasn’t familiar with, and then almost cameo performances from actors you do know. Those moments do take you slightly, but not enough to ruin the film and I do know that is just a personal thing. This is still a film you need to see, even if it is only once.