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The Last of Us review

The Last of Us was released in 2013, yet i didn’t get to play it till three years later. But when I did, it quickly became one of my top three games of all time. Its whole world and the characters within have somehow become a part of me. Joel and Ellie have become two of the most important characters in my life.

What’s The Last of Us about?

After one of the most emotional game intros I’ve ever experienced, we are placed with our hero, Joel, twenty years into a Post-apocalyptic world. Early on in the game you are entrusted to look after 14-year-old girl, Ellie. This is where it all begins – one of the most important relationships in gaming history starts right here. You are tasked with getting her safely to a group called ‘The Fireflies’, the reasons for which I wont reveal here, and of course it’s not simply a case of walking from A to B.

Once Ellie is with you, she will follow you wherever you go and you must protect her at all costs. But don’t get mistaken that protecting her means she is helpless; quite the opposite is true in fact. As the game progresses you will find that Ellie is just as tough as Joel, if not more so. They both come to rely on each other for survival.

You will end up travelling across America in your mission, encountering some interesting and downright terrifying people. The locations too are beautiful to explore, with the suburbs; the University of Eastern Colorado; a snowy lakeside resort; and more. All of which have been subject to the unstoppable spread of both mother nature and the deadly virus. The combination of overgrown flora and fauna, along with the ever-mutating infected, make for some simultaneously beautiful and grotesque imagery.

Infected everywhere

The infected that you encounter on your journey can be really tough at times, with all-out gun fights being the worse option to take. The infected people are found at different stages in their individual mutations, with each stage having its own strengths and weaknesses. The most iconic of these stages is probably what are known as ‘Clickers’. These mutated festering people have one of the most iconic sounds I’ve heard – their namesake ‘Clicking’.  They use this as a form of echo location due to their being blind as a bat.

There’s nothing quite so brutal as the moment a clicker grabs a hold a bites down hard.

A game of character

The emotional thread that runs through this game is much stronger than any of the make shift melee weapons that Joel can fashion. The core of The Last of Us is the father/daughter relationship between Joel and Ellie that gets stronger and stronger as time goes on. Although he is initially cold towards her, treating her simply as his current mission, you will see how their bond becomes tighter with each step they take. One of the real great parts of this character development too, is the subtle exchanges of conversation that happen in-game, when you are playing.

It is hard to talk about the characters in this game without drawing comparisons to The Walking Dead. What both The Walking Dead and The Last of Us do so well, is deal with the conflicts between humans themselves. Even though humans as a species have a common enemy in the viral outbreak, there are still separate factions that arise that will kill one another for control and supplies instead of working together.

As strong and positive as the relationship between Joel and Ellie is, there is darkness out there that would see them torn apart. This darkness could not have been portrayed any better than by David. The build up through the Winter chapter to its violent conclusion is one of my favourite scenes in gaming. And that’s all I’ll mention of it.

Multiple playthroughs

I’d never before finished a game and immediately, after the credits, hit ‘New Game’, but with this one I did. I just couldn’t wait to get back into this world once again. Once I knew the story and where conflicts would occur, I found I could take in more of the environment. I would start looking carefully at every little detail in the world around me, ever-impressed with the level of care.

When you replay through at the same difficulty you keep all weapon and character enhancements you gained first time through. This made me feel like a bad ass and I actually went looking for fights.

In Conclusion

It’s rare that a game, or even a film, that gets such high praise and surrounding hype actually lives up to it, but The Last of Us does. It’ll have you laughing at the funny interactions between the characters; it’ll have you terrified and scared for your life. It may even have you questioning the things that you really hold dear in this world of distractions and excess.

The Last of Us not only lives up to its reputation, it dwarfs it.

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Time is the enemy.
The tagline from 1917

1917 is the incredible film from Sam Mendes about two friends tasked with delivering an important message to save a battalion.

Presented in one single take, or two depending on whether you count some unconscious hours as a cut, this film is a modern testament to stellar film-making.

The Plot

1917 centres around two friends stationed near the front line in world war one France. They are given the near-impossible task of taking an urgent order through no-man’s-land to the Front where a batallion of 1,600 men are about to run into a German-laid trap. Of course that is unless these two friends can get there to warn them in time.

The story takes us, every single step of the way, through some of the most brutal, and at times beautiful, war-time landscapes. Along the way they meet other people who happen across their path, some friendly; some hostile, but neither stop them on their forward momentum to deliver their message of utmost importance.

My Thoughts

I’d heard from a few different people that this film was really good and demanded being experienced in a cinema. In all honesty I maybe wouldn’t have gone to see this, at least not on its weekend of release, however, my lady wanted to watch it so we went this weekend.

It was absolutely incredible.

The first thing that I couldn’t help but notice was the impressive single camera shot opening (no visible editing cuts), which I only realised about five minutes in.

But that opening shot was more than just an opening shot – it became apparent to me that this was going to be a film that would be experienced in a single, unflinching scene!

(I used to read up on films before seeing them when I was going through my media-student phase. But I much prefer it now, where I know next to zero about films before I go in – save for perhaps what is in the trailers.)

Yes there would have been cuts throughout the film* – no film is going to be physically filmed in one single take, at least none have been to my knowledge. However, using some clever techniques, many of which no-doubt inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film Rope, director Sam Mendes has managed to pull off the same one-take effect but on a much grander scale.

Beautifully shot

The cinematography in this film was stunning to say the least – thanks to the film’s cinematographer Roger Deakins. From the close-ups of decaying corpses of both human and animal alike – half buried in the rubble and mud of battles past – to the wide-shot bold imagery taken against very grand battle-torn vistas.

This film managed to bring to the screen all manner of brutal war imagery. Some I could have perhaps imagined, but also definitely some I could never have imagined.

And the lighting! The lighting effects in some of these scenes just made my jaw drop, at least in my mind. One particular time was the beginning of the night-time sequence with the flares going up overhead. It looked both gorgeous and like something straight out of hell at the same time – not that the two have to be mutually exclusive.

There were certain shots I still remember now very vividly, which I thought I would share here. I will create a gallery below when I can get a hold of the shots I want to share – probably when the film is released on DVD/Blu-Ray.

An Emotional Story

The story of 1917 is a simple one at heart – deliver this message over there before this time. However, woven into that story is an incredibly strong beating heart that I couldn’t help but be affected by.

The way that we remain in these people’s immediate vicinity, and experience everything they do, couldn’t help but draw me into their lives. And the stories they tell about their homes and their backstory, helped to fill them out more as flesh and blood people – making their hardships even tougher to endure with them at times.

Other Notes

Main characters aside, I have to say that Andrew Scott was a stand-out performance for me. He is always enjoyable to watch on screen after I first saw him as Moriarty on TV’s Sherlock. And his role as the laid-back, battle-hardened Lieutenant Leslie was enjoyable too. Albeit if only for the 5 – 10 minutes that you actually see him.

Thomas Newman’s score was incredible as always, and easy identified with certain sounds I felt reminiscent of from his earlier work on Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty.

I couldn’t help but think of this film in terms of a computer game, with it’s varying ‘Levels’ and mini ‘Boss Fights’. I don’t mean this as a way to make the film’s techniques sound like a gimmick – after all games are true contenders in effective narrative storytelling nowadays, even more so than many films that are released. Just look at The Last Of Us, to name just one.

*I could be completely wrong about this, so apologies if I am – I am making some assumptions in this post.