1917 is a master class without a doubt. Sam Mendes has made a movie that will make you wonder how on earth they managed to execute that. When I knew about the technical achievements of this movie, a part of me feared whether the “single-shot” approach would affect the emotional depth of the content. But the exciting part about the movie is that this treatment feels like the most honest way to depict a story like this.

The story is set in the year 1917 and the British army is at war against the Germans. The British army was planning an attack on the retreating German army. But the Aerial Intelligence of the army found that it was a tactical approach of the Germans to trap them. Two young soldiers, Blake and Schofield were asked to take this important message to the second battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. Their journey to convey that message is the plot of 1917.

This is a story that is perfect for a medium like cinema. Because there are no chapters of a story happening here that one can narrate verbally. The content has ample scope to utilize the visual language of cinema and along with someone like Roger Deakins, Sam Mendes has delivered such an emphatic creation that will blow your mind. The whole thing in the movie happens in a span of a few hours and that justifies this single-shot vision of Mendes as a necessity rather than a gimmick. The breathtaking feel one gets to experience while watching this movie is mainly because of this visual language.  And they have placed enough moments in the movie that shows the dark side of the idea of war from the perspective of soldiers.

Sam Mendes knows how to keep the viewer interested in the movie. The gory visuals of these two soldiers walking through the scattered decayed dead bodies of fellow soldiers are heartbreaking to watch. The brutally honest depiction of those visuals and the way we get to see the presence and absence of humanity makes it a hard-hitting political film that stands against the idea of war. There are no jingoistic rhetoric happening here and that scene you see in the trailer towards the end, where Schofield is running to get to a point is the high of this movie and you will be holding your breath for a minimum of 15 seconds. Roger Deakins and the team have done meticulous planning in creating that illusion of a single shot movie and beyond the technicalities of that, he makes sure that the minimally verbal movie communicates to the viewer about the depth of the situation. With the help of visual effects, they have presented the events with authenticity. There are no long silences in the movie when you look at the background score. But Thomas Newman keeps it minimal at many places and gradually increases and decreases it according to the emotional state of the movie. Iconic editor Lee Smith has been credited with the editing credits of this movie and I would really love to know how he helped Deakins and Mendes with the pacing of the visuals when the behind the scenes details come out. The production design is terrific and the visual effects were also great.

George MacKay as Lance Corporal Will Schofield is extremely earnest and he manages to portray the journey of this character very effectively. Towards the climax when he sits calmly under the tree after doing all that running, crying and screaming, we will automatically think about what all just happened with him in the last few hours. The next major character in the movie is Tom Blake played convincingly by Dean-Charles Chapman. Mark Strong, Collin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch are also there in small yet relevant characters.

1917 is a deeply affecting war drama that shows the catastrophic side of a war. 1917 is also a display of meticulous filmmaking with mind-boggling visuals and scale. This is one movie where you can rave about almost every department in the movie for the quality they have maintained to create such a fabulous cinema.

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Final Thoughts

This is one movie where you can rave about almost every department in the movie for the quality they have maintained to create such a fabulous cinema.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.