ryanmakuch’s review published on Letterboxd:
A fantastic spectacle on the screen, this is one of those war films that are worth seeing in theaters. It is also always a nice change of pace to see a war movie presented as a suspense movie as opposed to an action movie. The presentation of it all as one shot is incredible and suits the movie perfectly. It makes every event feel like a big deal and a high-stakes affair despite just two main characters -- albeit the key plot point is very high-stakes. As we are following our characters a full journey, we see that World War I (and war itself, really) is just hellacious. This is a heavy movie. The trenches are awful, there are dead bodies everywhere, everyone is miserable, 1917 does not glamorize war and I respect that immensely about the movie.
There are beautiful shots and scenes and touching characters moments as well. Ultimately, though, this movie falls apart without strong characters and a super-enthralling plot. Our two leads don't really have a ton of backstory, this film is all about their mission. This is fine, but we got some allusion to both of our leads' backgrounds and I just wish we had gotten more. I loved the side characters presented in the movie as well. Andrew Scott is on screen for three minutes and he absolutely steals the show. Mark Strong is such a powerful presence on the screen as well and he steals the scenes he is briefly in. Richard Madden appears at the end in a beautiful and moving scene. Finally, Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth are the two biggest name players in the film and they perform up to standard as well, despite just one scene each. The leads are George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman and both are solid. I thought MacKay had the stronger performance but neither had a ton to do in the movie -- again, resulting from a pretty limited script.
Overall, this is a movie that you really should see in theaters to get the full experience. It is not a world-changing movie but the cinematic work is absolutely fantastic and it had my attention for the full runtime despite being a fairly straight-forward movie with a few lulls.