Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, and Colin Firth.
Two young British soldiers, Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) are given an impossible task by General Erinmore (Colin Firth). They must leave their post at the front line in Northern France and cross through enemy territory to deliver a message to 1,600 Allied soldiers isolated behind enemy lines. If they fail, all of the men will die in battle including Blake’s brother.
Fact or Fiction:
2-Alfred Mendes (Sam Mendes’ paternal grandfather) was indeed picked to be a messenger on the Western Front in France. He was awarded the Military Medal for volunteering for a dangerous mission to walk through and find wounded soldiers in the No-Man’s Land during the Battle of Passchendaele.
There is also a connection with George MacKay. His three times great uncle, Albert Victor Baulk, was a signaller and telephonist for the 196th Siege Battery in Sailly-au-Bois, France. He was stationed just a few miles where Operation Alberich took place.
3-In the film, the abandoned German bunker just across No-Man’s Land was indeed booby trapped. The German’s did indeed destroy anything the Allies could use. They booby trapped bunkers, left trees across roads, blew up bridges, left snipers in bombed out towns, burned everything that could be useful.
4-Both Blake and Schofiled are fictional characters. It is unknown if any soldier had been tasked with such a mission, but it was common at that time for messages to be delivered by hand. The Germans had cut off telegraph cables and telephone lines were mostly destroyed. Alfred Mendes was indeed a messenger but not under this circumstance.
Honestly, I am not sure how I felt about this film. There were aspects of it I really liked but some I didn’t care for. Everyone talked about how it was filmed to look and feel as one continuous shot. I am not sure that impacted me in any way. The film was sad, scary, overwhelming but left me feeling empty. I know that I am an emotional person but yet I didn’t cry and didn’t feel the need to cry. I can’t really explain why I felt so hollow when it was over. I noticed that at the beginning of the movie, Lance Corporal Schofield was walking with Lance Corporal Blake. They were talking about a medal Schofield had been awarded. Schofield had given the medal away for a bottle of wine. Blake asked him why he had given away such an honor and his answer was that he was thirsty. You immediately knew accolades and possessions did not have any significant meaning to him. He was going to be dependable to the end for the right reasons. As the film progresses, I noticed that Schofield was slowly losing his things. He loses his gun and his knife. He gives away all of his food to someone in greater need. He loses his helmet and backpack. At the end all he has left is his uniform and a small tin box that contains his most prized and worldly possessions- a photo of his wife and 2 daughters. On the back of the photo it tells him to come back home to them. The film ends with him leaning against a tree as he was when the film started. He is looking at the photo and reading the inscription. He sits emotionless as if he has nothing left to give. He had suffered such horrors and maybe the only way he could survive was to shut off all emotion and distance himself from his situation. If the director’s goal was to make you feel void of emotions and empty inside, then this indeed an Oscar contender.
The cast was amazing. There were a lot of really small parts that were casted with some pretty heavy hitters. Colin Firth played General Erinmore. Benedict Cumberbatch played Colonel MacKenzie. It would have been nice for them to have a little more screen time.
Well done. My only real complaint is the ending. It shows how the mission turned out but what about after that? Did Schofield make it back home? I spent two hours feeling this character’s fears, pain, and anxiety. I feel that there was not enough closure with his character.
Really good. The bloated, decaying corpses are incredibly life-like. The screen showing bombs exploding accompanied by the sounds and almost shaking of the theater immerses you into the moment. Thankful that I have not personally experienced this in real life and incredibly grateful for those who have.
Should You Go See This Movie?
Go see it but be prepared for the heavy weight you will feel from this film.