Director Sam Mendes Starring George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch Universal Pictures Category 15 Running Time: 119 minutes
This film has been greeted with immediate, almost unanimous critical acclaim, winning awards within weeks of its release. I watched it in a packed cinema – and noticed that the audience was almost exclusively male. The film only has one woman in it; with her baby girl she provides a fleeting moment of softness, tenderness and domesticity in an otherwise stark film, that is largely devoid of emotion.
As a piece of cinematic art, the film is formed of a continuous single take. This process grips the viewer in a relentless journey through trenches, corpses, no-man’s land, rubble and rivers.
At times the boundaries of credibility are stretched, with almost the appearance of a video game in which the hero is Teflon-coated, yet it still manages to be a coherent whole.
Director Sam Mendes was inspired by his grandfather’s stories of the First World War. The story concerns the mission given to two soldiers to take a message nine miles to the new front line. The message is a command to stop a planned attack, to avoid a catastrophic defeat for 1,600 men.
The film reveals something of what it takes to be committed to a mission to communicate a life-saving message: willingness, determination, resilience and adaptability are vital to reach your objective. Perhaps those charged with communicating the gospel to a generation in danger might look and learn.
And those working with men might ponder what makes a film like this so compelling to a predominately male audience.
John Woods is pastor of Lancing Tabernacle in West Sussex