Directed by Sam Mendes, most notably known for his work on the previous two James Bond films, 1917 is a WWI epic that immerses the audience and puts them through the rigors of war.
The film revolves around two average soldiers, Lance Corporal Blake and Schofield, who are tasked with a mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory by the next morning to save 1,600 of their own men, one of whom is Blake’s brother.
It is a rather simple plot, a race against time with the stakes at an all-time high, that the audience has seen numerous times, but it is the execution that allows this film to shine. Filmed as one continuous shot, you are placed in the boots of the soldiers: crawling through the mud, dodging the rats, holding your breath as the intensity rises with every passing minute.
1917 does not rely on a big-name ensemble cast. Two of the most well-known actors, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch, are only in the film for no more than 5 minutes. The film truly centers around Blake, played by Dean-Charles Chapman, and Schofield, played by George MacKay, and I think that is what grounds this movie.
I didn’t feel like I was watching a typical war film, with explosions and bullets flying over every inch of the screen. I felt like I was on this journey with these two men, constantly on the lookout, literally holding my breath in anticipation of the ensuing threat. Watching this film, I was amazed not only by the acting but by the camera work. Aside from one moment, it is shot as if the entire film was one take with no breaks.
It is the race against time that makes for an inherently compelling story, and how Mendes decided to approach the film gives it an honor above all other war films before it. Taking home the awards for Best Drama Motion Picture and Best Director of a Motion Picture at the Golden Globes earlier this year, it is no surprise that 1917 is also nominated for multiple Oscars as well. I give 1917 a 9/10.