All wars are horrible but not equally so; WWI will always rank among the worst chiefly because of the gruesome reality of trench warfare where opposing sides faced one another for months or years in a static defense.
Enemies could be close enough to hear one another and on at least one occasion, get out and socialize during the Christmas holidays.
But static proximity meant constant artillery shelling and raids; dead soldiers rotted above ground or were repeatedly unearthed during periodic bombardments.
Combat units rotated in and out of the forward most trenches to a series of less exposed positions in the rear, after weeks in the rotation they might receive leave where inexplicably they could take a boat and a train and be back in England for tea and the Times.
1917 is not a battle epic; it is a tightly focused film telling the story of two men on a mission where the gruesome motifs of WWI are laid before us.
Interwoven is the cynicism and fatalism of officers and men dying over a battlefield measured in yards and acres.
The plot occurs over less than 24 hours and while slightly implausible still moves right along.
It is the mix of inhumanity and humanity that war always is and by focusing on just two people it is especially powerful and tragic.
The cinematography is superb, from sweeping panoramas to tight, even cut-off close-ups: (watch especially for the scene when Mark Strong first appears; it’s brilliant.)
War is hell and 1917 proves it.