1917’s continuous one shot shooting style is a film-making marvel in one of the year’s best films.
Score: 5 / 5
1917 is one of the best movies I have seen. I honestly am struggling with where to begin with this one. It’s a beautiful film that well after I left the theater the emotions that it made me experience stuck with me. There are very few movies if at all that made me feel like I went on this journey with the characters on the screen, and this one I felt like I was there with them. A voyeur observer that desperately wanted to lend a hand, a shoulder, and a voice to keep going.
1917 is a war drama set during World War I. It follows two British soldiers tasked with delivering a message to the front lines to call off an attack. If they fail well over a thousand men will walk right into a trap. The problem is they must cut through enemy lines to get there and they are running out of time. Throughout the film we see the war to end all wars in painful detail, yet we also see in our two leads the different views of the war. One fighting for glory, and the other who is lost in the horrors of war itself.
I need to start somewhere with this movie so I’ll start with what has been pushed in behind the scenes marketing. This movie is shot as if it’s one continuous shot. As in, the movie doesn’t cut to different perspectives. It’s as if you are standing right there behind the soldiers, and if you want to see their faces, either the camera must move around them or the solider must turn around. There have been other movies or shows that have done scenes or moments like this, but this is the whole movie, and they don’t skip on insane action set pieces to do it. Explosions, plane crashes. It’s a technical marvel and absolute insanity that Director Sam Mendes, Cinematographer Roger Deakins, and the rest of the cast and crew were able to pull it all off.
This style of visual storytelling is much more common in video games such as Call of Duty or the masterpiece of God of War (Gaming fan? Seriously play God of War). This isn’t a negative in any stretch either this is just something that is much easier to accomplish in a game versus of a movie, and the benefits you get are immense. You don’t just feel like you are watching events playing out, you feel like you are there. I felt like I too was on this terrifying journey to save lives of so many soldiers. It’s something that is all the more amazing because you can see it on a massive theater size screen. This movie needs to be seen in a theater, so please don’t wait. When it hits your local theater make the time and get out there.
What makes this visual adventure work though is the two soldiers, Lance Corporal Blake, and Lance Corporal Schofield. Game of Thrones fans might recognize Blake who is played by Dean-Charles Chapman (King Tommen no more), while Schofield is played by George MacKay. These two take us on an emotional journey that is astonishing since they are essentially always on the move, trying to reach their destination. They give you so much in their conversations or reactions to the situations they walk into that you feel for them. You want them to make it, and you understand their emotions. You’ll be scared for them, you’ll cry with them, and you’ll feel the immense weight of what they have gone through by the end. Along the way they meet up with many excellent established actors in cameo roles, Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, and Richard Madden (another Game of Thrones alum). Everyone does a great job and really brings you into every scene.
The final piece to this movie is a beautiful yet haunting score by Thomas Newman. It sets the tone of every beat. Giving us a moment to appreciate a view, sit with a difficult scene, or feel the sands of time slipping away before it’s too late. This too feels a bit like some of the great video game scores of the last decade that elevates the journey you are going on (again God of War is a great example).
I’ve seen great war movies before, but this made me feel like I was part of it in a way that I have never experienced before in a movie. The shooting style, direction, actors, score, and a crew of wizards created something truly special. It’s a beautiful yet sorrowful piece of art that perfectly captures the stories you have read about the Great War, and is easily one of the best movies of the year.