By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
To be quite honest director Sam Mendes uses a gimmick to tell this story. However, it is a gimmick/trick that is used so tremendously well that it’s rather difficult to begrudge him for its use. 1917 is a World War I movie which focuses on two young British soldiers tasked with an important, but highly dangerous mission. The gimmick to which I am referring is that Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins, editor Lee Smith, and other technical crew have crafted a movie that appears as one long take. Its use to tell this incredible and riveting story adds to the urgency and gravity of the plot and makes the movie an immersive and unforgettable experience.
In 1917 northern France, a large mass of British troops are about to a major offensive against the German army. However, intelligence has indicated that they are headed into a trap. War buddies Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) get assigned a most dangerous mission. They must deliver a warning to the officer in charge before he leads his troops into a slaughter.
Written and directed by Sam Mendes, who co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Carnes, 1917 is a phenomenal technical achievement as well as an extraordinary example of artistry through filmmaking. I had wondered if the “one-take,” trick would distract from the story and characters, but it actually has the opposite effect. Mendes and his crew have utilized the effect to immerse the audience in this harrowing world of violence, fear, and adrenaline. I left the theater not only blown away, but also exhausted.
The cinematography by Deakins and the editing by Lee Smith are both pretty damn amazing. Deakins knows exactly how to move his camera and capture some shots that are not just astounding, but also absolutely gorgeous and sometimes frightening. Smith and the effects crew have also done some tremendous work to piece together what seems to be one lengthy, nearly non-stop take.
That is not to say that the movie only deserves praise for its aesthetic and technical achievements. Mendes, Eilson-Carnes and the actors have developed a story and characters with much heart and passion. Actors Chapman and McKay take the audience on this utterly frightening journey and show us a terrifying war through their innocent eyes. The film also features great appearances and performances by Mark Strong, Colun Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
1917, with all of its amazing technical and artistry, is a movie that must be experienced on the big screen. I highly recommend this movie at any ticket price because it truly is a movie that will eventually become a timeless classic.