1917 was written and directed by Sam Mendes and stars Dean-Charles Chapman, A.K.A. King Tommen from Game of Thrones, and George MacKay. The movie follows their characters as they have to deliver a message to call off an attack that will save around 1,600 men from a planned trap by the Germans.
If it hasn’t been spoiled already, here you go: this movie was shot to look like it was done an one, continuous take. Although, since there is a fade-to-black at one point, I am calling it a two-take film—Don’t @ me.
That is beside the point though because the direction is masterful. I’ve never had a film experience like this where it feels like I am watching a live-action video game play out. You follow both MacKay and Chapman from a third-person perspective that reminds me of cinematic cuts from campaign modes of a Medal of Honor or Call of Duty game. It is that immersive.
The set designs are another stunning aspect of this film. The detail of trench warfare is immaculate. If you pay attention enough, you can see the increase in tension in the soldiers’ faces as you go from a command post to the front lines of battle. The ones that are further away from action are more calm than those that are up front. Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins did a tremendous job displaying that.
Although MacKay and Chapman deliver excellent performances, there is a lack of characterization to the point where you don’t care about their fates in the gripping scenarios that the face such as tripwires and the unknown of running into the enemy with one wrong step. The movie tries to give you enough background to invest in these characters but it just didn’t work for me.
Aside from that, this movie is one of the great achievements in cinematic history. Like I said, I cannot praise Mendes enough for pulling off a movie this complicated. From scenes that are carried by the lighting of flares, a glorious wide-shot that sees thousands of soldiers running across a plain, to the music composed by Thomas Newman, every technical aspect is perfect in this film and worthy of any wins during this award season.
One thing I will say that could do some harm to this film is the people that go to movies for entertainment and not technical appreciation. There are scenes that are purposely long because of the style of the film. So you will see some flack given to the movies by the lowest common denominator of film goers.
But please, if you have the time, buy a ticket to go see 1917 and witness something that you have never seen before on a big screen.