1917 (film review)

I begin my review unsure where to begin. 1917 released December of 2019, soon to be nominated for 10 Oscars is one of the best films I’ve been lucky enough to watch. I recently had the opportunity of re-watching the film for a second time as I have neglected to view it since the Oscars in February; in which I rushed and was only able to watch on my phone! I sat with my family and we all watched together in ultra 4K HD with surround sound (the best way) and had an immersive experience, to say the least.  

The 10 times nominated film was directed by Sam Mendes, best known for his work in re-imagined stage productions as well as his work on some classics including American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, and Skyfall. 1917 being his latest work Mendes took inspiration for the War classic from his grandad using his stories from the war to inspire his and Krysty Wilson-Cairns screenplay. 

1917 is inspired by true events, however, is not based on the main characters of Lance Corporal Schofield and Blake. The film tells the story of two soldiers in World War I who received orders to cross enemy lines to potentially save the lives of 1,600 men including Blake’s brother. The film tells an emotional and nerve-wracking story of bravery. This amazing plot would not have been achieved without the perfect casting of our main characters. Schofield played by George Mackay and Blake played by Dean-Charles Chapman were outstanding in bringing their roles to life and beautifully portraying two young men in the war taking an order that could impact so many lives. 

(Lance Corporal Blake and Lance Corporal Schofield)

One of the many highlights of the film is the very talented cinematography. It’s an instantly noticeable feature of the film, that it is portrayed as one entire shot. Roger Deakins was the cinematographer behind 1917 and many other films including Shawshank Redemption and even worked with Mendes before with Skyfall. This made 1917 part of his 15 academy awards nominations and two wins. Deakins admitted that when hearing of the film he had no idea Mendes’ idea of one continuous shot until receiving the script in which it read, “this is envisioned as a real-time story, shot with a single take” which left Deakins with more than a challenge on his hand, but one he did not turn down. The cinematography was a spectacle in every way, it’s amazing how part of the story you become when it’s filmed in ‘real-time’ and I do feel this makes it so special. 

My thoughts on 1917, as I mentioned my first time watching compared to the second, were very different. I feel I didn’t truly appreciate the beauty at first viewing. Throughout the entire film, I was in a constant array of emotions, from crying of sadness to happiness. It’s a stunning picture worthy of all its academy nominations and wins. The ending and when I say ending I mean the last 20 minutes, were absolutely amazing. I have to admit that 1917 has one of my favorite endings, with the final run across the battlefield, to the mirrored final shots. 

(final run across battlefield)

I conclude with some final thoughts. I believe the entire film was a challenge that Sam Mendes pulled off with absolute perfection with a great cast and crew behind him. 1917 tells a heart-breaking story of young men with a horrific yet crucial order which is portrayed with such emotion and intelligence it is a perfect watch for both war and non-war film fanatics. It is definitely top of my list.

By Kelda Storm

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