The centenary of the Great War will do little wild passions. The hairy and expenses to the bayonet do not sell, it is a fact.
We are in April 1917. The German forces operate a tactical retreat to the Hindenburg line. Pleasantly surprised, the English were thrown into their pursuit. Aerial surveillance reveals the trap. A general sends two dispatch riders – corporals, Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) – to prevent a regiment of English of the trap. They will have to go out of the lines and through the trenches of the opposing, all in less than 12 hours. To add a hint of pathos, the older brother of Blake served in the unit in danger.
After two blockbusters are successful, the ambitious Sam Mendes intends to show his ability. The long sequence of the opening of Spectrum was bluffing, he intends to make it better: a film in a single plan.
Let’s face it that the images are sumptuous, the sets of uniforms and perfect. The long journey in the mud mixed with the body of the no man’s land is unforgettable. So far, only the drawings byOtto Dix were able to visualize the unspeakable, the corpses stuck in the mud, rats and crows, the body decayed and incomplete… the only thing missing is the smell, as suggested by the swarms of flies.
The novels In the West nothing new, Fire, or Storms of steel described endless shelling of the artillery, of the expectation and assault. Shards of steel, the mud, the blood and the foul water. The Sum of Mendes is much more varied, with little shells, out of the mud, but not too much, of German trenches empty, unspoiled countryside, a village in flames, a river in full spate, a preserved forest. His heroes are endearing. Their eyes manage to express the fatigue, exhaustion and hallucinations. Brother expresses well the suffering manly and dumb. Mendes is consensual: the generals are professionals and anxious to avoid unnecessary losses; the gesture assassin of the driver German can be attributed to the suffering. The war remains relatively beautiful. Maybe too much
The viewer remains on his hunger. The music is anxiety-provoking, but his orchestrations and cold, its sounds pervasive lack of discretion. The soldiers are too young, too well fed, too clean, too well-shaved. The corpses are more realistic. Worse, the mechanics of the plan sequence struggling to convince, the supporting roles are just sketched, the time of a picture, before disappearing. It prevents any back, prohibits any outside eyes. The great work of Mendes closes on the fate of Blake and Schofield. The Great war disappears, giving place to the story. Schofield is injured. Knocked unconscious, dream-he’s young and unlikely, girl, the city burns…
The interpretation of The Wayfaring Stranger by Jos Slovick is supernatural beauty. The war is definitely missed.