1917 is the latest film directed by Sam Mendes and it stars George Mackay and Dean-Charles-Chapman. It revolves around two young British privates during the First World War, who are given the impossible mission to deliver a message deep into enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men (and one of the soldier’s brothers) from walking straight into a deadly trap.
Going into the theater, this film was pretty much my most anticipated movie for the rest of 2019. I’ve only seen American Beauty and Skyfall out of Mendes’s filmography, so I’m aware of his talents as a director. However, the whole idea of a war-film made to look like it’s all shot in a single take, with legendary of cinematographer Roger Deakins at the helm, is what really got me excited. One takes are something I really admire, so seeing this applied to a World War 1 film is something I needed to see to believe. I can safely say that after seeing the final cut, 1917 is a film that left me speechless when the credits began to role. It reminded me why I want to make movies in the future.
A lot of people may look at the film’s marketing and think it’s just a gimmick. However that could not be farther from the truth. The primary advantage of the film being a singular one take, is that it allows you to follow the two brave soldiers throughout the entire run-time, without breaking perspective. You start the film with these two characters and see their entire journey, connection, conflict, and emotions, all the way until the very last frame. This makes the film engaging and investing. The one-take also never feels boring as Mendes manages to find different ways to visually communicate the story to the audience, while keeping them interested, even when it’s just characters sprinting to point A to B. The one-take makes the entire film feel authentic, resulting in an increase of tension and high stakes. You feel immersed into the film, as if your literally in one of the battlefield sequences, with the characters on screen. The film wouldn’t have been nowhere near as intense or investing as the film already is, without the singular iconic take.
The plot of the film is what carries the entire journey together and the character’s motivations. What really surprised me most about the film, is how human some of the scenes were. Some of my favorite moments were one’s that featured a unique connection/bond with the solider’s and their surrounding fighters. The characters are wonderfully written on the screen, as they all feel real and genuine. This is all brought to life due to Geroge Mackay and Dean-Charles-Chapman performances, who both do an excellent job portraying their simplistic characters. Both are break-out actors, and I cannot wait to see these two in more films in the future!
This all could not have been pulled off without the masterful direction from Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins. Mendes’ singular vision and meticulous planning, resulted in a visually stimulating work of art. The grand epic scale of this project is honestly a stunning thing to witness in a cinema! As for Deakins’ work, 1917 makes another great point on why he’s a god of his craft. The film has not a single ounce of artificial lighting, and it is all expertly cut to look like one take. Despite all of these limitations, it looks utterly incredible. Some sections of the film look so good, that it’s honestly frame worthy! The editing also is some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Lee Smith masterfully edits the the film, by making his cuts 98% of the time impossible to detect, as it lets you be immersed into the story. The score from Thomas Newman is also extremely chilling. Newman’s score enhances what’s on-screen and gets emotions running!
I mentioned earlier in this review of how this film reminded me why I don’t just love movies, but also how it reminded me why I want to create films. What truly made me realize this, is a specific scene in this film that was so powerful from the point of view of how it was directed, constructed, shot and scored; that it nearly brought me to tears from the beauty of it all. 1917 is something I’m in awe of. This is a movie that is something that is needed to be fully experienced in a theater. This is something that I am very confident in its chances at the Oscars. I don’t just think it’s walking away with a lot of the technical awards but some of the other major ones as well.
1917 opens in select cinemas on December 25th, 2019