Half Time Blues

Stars:  George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch
Director: Sam Mendes (“Skyfall”)
Scriptwriters: Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Composer: Thomas Newman
Cinematography: Roger Deakins (“Sicario” and “Blade Runner 2049”)
DreamWorks Pictures/New Republic Pictures/Universal
Rating: R for war violence, dramatic scenes and themed material
Running Length: 120 Minutes 

In director Sam Mendes film, “1917,” we have a story set during WWI, and it concerns two young British men who are charged with a purpose: to stop troops from beginning an assault against the German Army.  Can they get there in time?  This reminds one of Mel Gibson and “Gallipoli” or before that, in ancient Greece, the runner Pheidippides, who ran long distances several times with important messages. Now, the two British soldiers go from one adventure to another, until the audience doesn’t know what country they are in and how they can travel fast carrying so much equipment.  “They” meaning George McKay (“Captain Fantastic”) as Lance Corporal Schofield and Dean-Charles Chapman (“Game of Thrones”) as Lance Corporal Blake.  This is their story. 

The film opens with the two young soldiers (Schofield and Blake) sitting idly while the war goes on around them.  Suddenly, they are asked to carry a message through No Man’s Land to General Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch).  He must stop his troops from advancing on the German Army.  It is a trap.  Also, Blake has a brother there and this could save his life.  Loaded with food and ammunition, the two soldiers start out and then the “Perils of Pauline” starts. You look at the sky and something is sure to fall.  Look at the ground, and well, don’t step on that metal. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is wonderfully done and he is with the men like a third person on their patrol.  The land has been laid waste by war, homes burned, towns afire and bodies everywhere.  The men are either walking on dry earth or in mud. This is a bloody war, and now something occurs that makes the last half of the movie a story unto itself.  “1917” could have been a television series instead of a film. The audience has to reorganize their thoughts to follow what happens.  War is war and they go at it until, as one person says, “Last man standing." 

Of the two actors, Dean-Charles Chapman as Blake, is the talkative one, while George MacKay, as Schofield, is laid back and quiet. They banter with each other and are careful as they move forward with their mission.  Chapman has body language and you can tell what he will do next, while MacKay is stoic and every once in awhile you want to say, “Are you still with us?”  This is a two-man story and their ingenuity as they carry an important message.  The rest of the cast is on the screen in name only, and with make-up and heavy clothing, you don’t recognize them.  As far as visuals, this is war time and the devastation is contrasted with blue sky and vistas. You get the idea that the basic script was one hour long and the perils were added to prolong screen time.   Disappointment. 

Copyright 2019 Marie Asner 

*Note: Kansas City, Missouri has the largest WWI Memorial Museum in the world. Open to visitors seven days a week.