Images from 1917 (Sam Mendes, 2019)

The first thing I saw after emerging from a press screening of Sam Mendes’s World War One drama 1917 was a poster for the film, with the tagline, “From the Director of Skyfall.” Mendes’s film, set in the trenches and on the battlefields of Northern France, proposes to offer a vivid evocation of combat in the penultimate year of the Great War: a closing caption pays tribute to the director’s grandfather Alfred H. Mendes, who told him about his own experiences as a soldier in the conflict. Sincere as 1917 apparently is, you can’t help feeling that it is a curious tribute to real horrors endured by real combatants to turn their experience into a Skyfall of the trenches—a pulse-quickening, nonstop adventure yarn about two intrepid heroes on an altogether Bond-style mission into No Man’s Land and beyond.

George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman play…