This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Daxson Hale’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
I'm still not quite sure if I can wrap words around this movie. While not complicated in premise or presentation, other than the narrative style of overlapping timelines, the most gripping thing about this movie is its unrelenting pace. It's not a long movie but it feels neverending-- not in a bad way, but in an anxiety-inducing web of inescapable nightmares.
It stands out in its ability to depict the horrors of war without graphically depicting any injury. Its bleakness comes from the seeming absence of emotion from the war's survivors, boys who can see their friends picked off from their left and their right and keep going, unable to mourn. (In fact, if there's one thing that could have bumped this movie up in my eyes it would have been something to release all that emotion at the end. I felt like I needed to see someone cry— tears of relief, of joy, of sadness, of grief, anything to help ME through those emotions. Maybe I'm just too much of a simpleton.)
I have this weird thing where I've at times been more moved by British depictions of patriotism and love for Britain than I have been for my own country. I don't know what it is but there's something about Great Britain that just has a part of my soul. This film made me sob tears of brotherhood for the sacrifice of boys fighting and men and women putting their lives at risk to save them. It was bleak, yes, but it was hopeful and inspiring and devastating and made me yearn not for a time of war, but for a time when we had something to fight for and something to believe in.
I didn't look away from the screen for the whole film and forgot about my large popcorn 1/4 of the way through the bucket. The audience applauded as credits rolled but it took me a half hour to unclench my stomach.
Edit: Damn. Gotta talk about the sound. I saw this in IMAX and it was terrifying. From the first bullets to the swooping planes to the unending rhythm of the score, I was so completely immersed. It was LOUD and booming and REAL. The entire audience was dodging bullets— involuntary reactions to the gunshots. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like it. While I think Oscar predictions are pretty silly, this movie, if anything, should be a serious contender for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Editing.