1917: REVIEW

The cinematography of the World War I masterpiece "1917" by writer/director Sam Mendes is outstanding. It grabs you and does not let up for over two hours. What is outstanding about this film is that it looks like one seamless shot. The way cinematographer Roger Deakins did it is bound to win, the already Oscar winner, another golden statuette. 1917 is filmed to make it look like one camera in one take even though there are cuts but they are so hidden that the entire movie appears almost seamless.

The story follows two young British privates during the First World War trying to stop 1,600 men, including one of their brothers, from walking into a deadly trap. The camera follows the two soldiers through the trenches of hellish surroundings. The goal is make us feel like we are actually on this journey not watching a journey and it works. Mendes wants us to feel the carnage in a real way. We watch and feel the blood spatters, we feel the mud and reality of what war is sets in quickly. The movie is so real and so gutwrenching it truly shows us what war is. This is not a Hollywood movie about war. This is war.

Stars George MacKay, who plays Tommen Bartheon in Game of Thrones, and Dean Charles-Chapman, known for portraying Billy Elliot in the West End theater production of Billy Elliot the Musical, rehearsed for five months to prepare for the tracking shot with carefully choreographed scenes. Through their pain we see courage and sacrifice and inspiration for the viewer unfolds.

For the shooting of these incredible scenes, everyone started on the same day when usually actors come to set later."  MacKay says when there were mistakes they just had to keep going and power through. He says the longest take was a whopping straight nine minutes, and says it all felt like theater when making this movie. He says one gets lost in making scenes such as these as there is a lot of  physicality. He explains that "often, by the end of the take, we’re so far away from the rest of the crew because we’ve traveled such distance within the shot that it felt very much like our own world" and so the conditions felt very real. They say they understand what it must have been like for the real soldiers. Charles Chapman says “it was a very hard shoot, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, physically and emotionally and you have to remember that every time we were walking through mud so are the camera guys and the whole crew."

Mendes wrote the script after hearing stories from his grandfather. For Charles-Chapman it was his great, great grandfather who was in the cavalry in the first world war and was shot and wounded. He says he laid out in no man’s land trying to survive for four days and survived.

1917 is sheer moviemaking at its best. More men died in World War II but World War I had horrible brutality and this film shows it.  "1917" takes us into that horror and doesn’t let go for two hours. Be ready when you walk in to see it.


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