Academy Award winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead) has returned to the war film genre but this time it’s set in WWI and is shot to look like a continuous take. 1917 is an immersive film about two Lance Corporals who need to deliver a message to another troop to order an attack to stop as the British have realised it is a trap. What’s more is that one of the men’s brother is part of those 1,600 men who will be killed if the message isn’t delivered before dawn.
We absolutely loved this film. Gripped from the very beginning, we couldn’t take our eyes off it. In our opinion it’s one of the best war films of recent times and is so unique in the way it’s been shot and edited. Read on for five reasons to see 1917!
1. It’s a visual delight
Having Roger Deakins, Oscar winning cinematographer (Blade Runner 2049) on board filled our expectations that 1917 would be shot beautifully and we weren’t wrong! Each shot is not only beautiful but builds the feeling of each scene; from the cramped conditions of the trenches to the dangerous waters of a fast flowing river, captured in such a way that you feel like you’re there, engulfed in the excruciating atmosphere of each moment.
To accompany the cinematography, set design is honed so intricately. The trenches, towns and tunnels that we encounter have complex detail to them and feel completely real. We aren’t experts on what to expect from a WWI scene but they really did seem totally authentic.
2. It’s edge of your seat stuff from the beginning
As soon as our protagonists Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) set off on their mission, their lives are at immediate risk. As they go ‘over the top’ and into no mans land (the desolate landscapes between British and German trenches) our hearts are in our mouths and remain there until the end of the film. From one incoming threat to another, there’s not much time for repose and this film really delivers a nail biting experience.
3. The acting is excellent
Led by Chapman and MacKay, the acting in 1917 is wonderful. The relationship built between the two men on their journey is captivating and has us willing them to succeed with their mission. As they are met with a barrage of tribulation across the film we share every emotion thanks to the acting of both men. We are so shocked that MacKay’s performance hasn’t got an Oscar nomination; the desperation he has to complete the task before him is so gripping we were totally engrossed.
4. It’s backed with a perfect score
After each scene being filled with stunning detail, impeccable acting and filmed perfectly, they are accompanied by a score to build great tension and drive such emotion into you. Composed by Thomas Newman (who has had 14 Oscar nominations to date), the score backs the picture in a faultless way, giving the right amount of pathos and excitement when each are needed. Interestingly, the moments without a score stand out too, allowing a gunshot to ring out or the concentration on the breathing of a character to emphasise their performance. It’s a great balance.
5. The ‘one-shot’ technique works so well
Hailed by critics as one of the reasons to see this film, the use of camerawork and editing to make it seem like a continuous shot really is exquisite. Not only does this technique highlight some fantastic film-making, but it allows the narrative to feel so gritty and real as we are watching every moment as it happens without anything taken out. One recommendation would be to try and not over think it as you watch the film, as looking for cut-scenes can be distracting. No fault of the film though as the editing is executed so well, it feels completely seamless.
1917 is a film that needs to be experienced on the big screen. If you haven’t seen the trailer, don’t watch and just go to see the film! You won’t be disappointed.
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