Why 1917 is my favourite war movie so far!
After a recent recommendation from a friend, I watched the intense and exhilarating 1917.
Before continuing please watch the trailer added below. Also if you havent yet watched the film, now's the time to do so as the future of this article holds spoilers.
(All rights to the trailer belong to Universal Studios and Youtube.)
Now I know what you’re thinking, the movie was released back in December 2019, why haven’t I watched it sooner? Well unfortunately my friends weren’t interested in watching it with me as war movies are not a popular genre of my generation. But after a friend from work recommended it, I thought it couldn't hurt right? Boy was it good! An exhilleratiing and immersive experience from the opening credits to the very final scene!
I loved everything about it from the contrasting characters and the life and death situations they are thrown into, to the star studded cameos, even the enveloping thrill of the chase as they race against time.
So below I am going to detail parts of the movie and highlight the aspects I enjoyed the most. But I highly recommend you watch the movie, even if you're not a war film fan, the technical accomplishments alone speak volumes to this one-shot masterpiece!
The Characters and Cast
The two main characters in this movie consist of Lance Corporals William Scholfield and Thomas Blake. British child star George MacKay portrays the older and more experienced Scholfield meanwhile Game of Thrones star Dean-Charles Chapman brings life to the comedic younger Blake.
The casting for these characters was very logical. Sam Mendes, the director, stated in an interview with Hollywood Outbreak that he wanted "unknown" actors. Both MacKay and Chapman have worked on several British projects however did not have a Hollywood status as of just yet.
But after looking at their previous work you can see why they were chosen for such important roles. George MacKay has had the opportunity to work in a wide range of eras including 1800's Ned Kelly, WW2 in Where Hands Touch, and WW1 in Private Peaceful. His previous work in war films has given him the expertise to portray his most recent character. Similar to MacKay, Chapman has also worked on period and historical dramas including the previously mentioned Game of Thrones, The King and The White Queen.
Unlike most movies, very little personal information is given to the viewer about these characters and it enables you to judge them for the men the war has made of them. And even without detailed backstories and descriptive character, you build a relatable connection and sorrow for these men.
Although the two main actors in this movie are relatively unknown, Mendes threw in some very recognizable faces from the likes of Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch.Image from The Express - Link
The PlotFrom The Guardian - Link
So the movie follows these British soldiers, Scholfield and Blake as they are tasked with delivering a message to another Battalion. Simple right? Nope!
The pair must travel across No man's land, ominously quiet German trenches and seemingly abandoned structures. And if that's not enough, they only have until sun rise to do it! The other Battalion are blissfully unaware that the Germans have strategicly retreated to set an ambush and with phone lines severed there is no other way to contact them. Therefore Scholfied and Blake must alert them in order to protect 1600 men from being slaughtered.
But even though these characters are not based on real people, some of the events and the hardship they had to endure was relayed from both extensive research and from director Sam Mendes' own grandfather.
The movie involves heartbreaking moments detailing the death and destruction brought upon not only France, where the movie was set, but on all of the countries devastated by the horrific First World War.
Unfortunately, Thomas Blake does not see it to the end of this endeavor and you experience both his loss and the resilliance of his comrade to carry on wihtout him. The story is then further humanised with the breif introduction of a young french woman and a baby hiding from the Germans. Scholfield displays great selflessness in donating all of his provisions, including a canteen of milk to them.
However I personally found that the most heart-wrenching scene was at the end when Scholfield runs across the battlefield in his last attempt to call off the attack. I couldn't help myself in cheering him on as he ran to accomplish his goal. With explosions and shots being fired all around him, the uncertainty of his success left you on the edge of your seat.
The Filming and Production; The hardship of a one-shot film.
A one-shot film means that the movie is contructed to seem as though it was filmed in one continuous shot. This meant that each scene would be significantly longer. In an interview with PopBuzz Dean-Charles Chapman claims that the longest scene they had to film was 8 and a half minutes! George MacKay goes on to describe a significant scene he struggled with;
"There was a particular scene which I remember my rifle slipping off my shoulder and it was a shot ruining rifle slip multiple times and literally it's like the last 15 seconds of the take"Image from PopBuzz Youtube Interview
You can only imagine the stress and prescision that went into the physical production, especially if something went wrong and all the explosives would have to be reset and the actors would have to repeat several lines again.
But alongside the hard work of the actors, director, sound crew, etc, the editing was also tough work as they had to put the scenes together without making the cuts visible. I commend all the people that worked on this movie as it must have involved considerable research and precision.
There were many reviews of this film, many of which positive! I would rate it a 4 out of 5 as I would have liked to have seen more depth to the characters but perhaps leaving it to our imagination was the point?
Anyway below are a few of the most notable reviews the film recieved.
Critic Mark Kermode writes in The Guardian that "Mendes’s first world war drama, filmed to appear as one continuous take, plunges the viewer into the trenches alongside two young British soldiers to breathless effect." and ultimatley he rated it 4 stars aswell.
Alex Godfrey of Empire explains "Although 1917's filmmaking very much brings attention to itself, it's an astonishing piece of filmmaking, portraying war with enormous panache. This is big-screen bravado, and then some."
Youtube Reviewer Jeremy Jahns said the following; "There's something about the execution of how this movie was filmed it heightens your senses. When they stop and rest you're looking at the hills like 'alright is there any enemies? No? Alright'. It's like you cant rest either."
1917 was chosen by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute as one of the top films of the year of 2019. It's hardly surprising then that it recieved numerous nominations and awards. Below I have created a list of the films accomplishments. (All information is provided by Wikipedia).
Oscars 2019 - 10 nominations, 3 awards (Visual Effects, Sound Mixing and Cinematography)
Golden Globes 2020 - 3 nominations, 2 awards (Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Director)
Critic's Choice Awards 2020 - 8 nominations, 3 awards
BAFTA Awards 2020 - 9 nominations, 7 awards
Overall I found this movie so interesting and intensely captivating as it surrounds you within the situations the characters are thrown into. I thank all the cast and crew who made such an amazing project come to life and I look forward to Sam Mendes' future work.
I recommend watching this movie becasue it is the first movie I have seen all year that left me wanting more and feeling like I was actually involved in the characters lives. Therefore it is rated as a must-see in my eyes and I will adding the DVD to my collection of most treasured films.
Over and Out,