“1917” is a 2019 war film directed by Sam Mendes, who co-wrote the script with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Mendes also directed the critically acclaimed film, “Skyfall” back in 2012.
Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch don’t get much screen time, despite being big-name actors. In fact, Firth, Strong, and Cumberbatch are the only well-known actors in the film.
Even though the film does not feature a star-studded cast, Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay successfully bring the true, gritty story to life.
Chapman stars as Lance Corporal Blake and Mackay as Lance Corporal Schofield.
Two young British soldiers are assigned to deliver a message to call off a scheduled attack, which will endanger the lives of 1,600 soldiers, including Lt. Joseph Blake, Corporal Blake’s brother. Blake and Schofield agree to deliver the message and after reaching the abandoned German trenches, a rat triggers a tripwire, which almost kills Schofield.
As the story unfolds, the protagonists try their best to survive in an unforgiving and brutal warzone. Although the movie rarely lingers on the blood and gore, it never puts you at ease. From start to finish, “1917” is a cinematic thrill ride, but unlike most war films, the violence never goes over-the-top.
“1917” has some of the best camerawork I have ever seen. The cinematography gives the film the illusion that it is all one shot. I’ve seen films, such as “Children of Men” and portions of “Dunkirk,” in which the camera follows the characters for a few minutes – but nothing compares to over an hour of non-stop camerawork, which follows the two corporal’s through their treacherous journey.
And as far as set design goes, this film is full of realistic-looking trenches and war zones. What’s even more impressive is the film crew was able to follow the characters around, even with the giant props in their way.
Along with the flawless cinematography, the film has exceptionally good sound design. When I saw it in the theaters, I was blown away by the immersive surround sound mix. It almost sounded as if I was in the middle of the warzone. Most notably, there is a scene near the beginning of the film, in which two army aircrafts fly overhead.
The sound started as a distant hum of plane engines in the surround back speakers, but quickly moved overhead, then through the front speakers. As a surround sound fanatic, it was a real treat and gave the film a new level of immersion. Also, the bass was fantastic and shook the entire auditorium when there were low frequencies, particularly near the climax of the film.
But above all else, the acting is what truly makes the film phenomenal. Blake and Schofield’s character chemistry throughout much of the film is excellent and well-developed. And instead of sugarcoating some of the dialogue between the characters, Mendes wasn’t afraid to get dirty with the relationship between the two leads. Also, Mackay brought an incredible amount of depth to his character, solely through his facial expressions.
While the trailers for the film showed a lot of short snippets, I was truly surprised at how many plot points were not spoiled. Going into the theaters, I thought I’d figure out how the film was going to end by the middle. Surprisingly enough, I was completely wrong. The film completely caught me off-guard, due to the surprising number of plot twists – no, I’m not talking about you, M. Night Shyamalan – true plot twists that kept me invested in the story and characters.
Even though there were some minor plot holes in the film, they didn’t take away from the overall experience. And while the directing and acting were amazing, the two protagonists stole the show for me.
“1917” may not be an in-your-face type of film, but it truly delivers some intense action and gut-wrenching moments.
The film proves the war genre has not lost its touch.