1917: A Review of the Realistic Portrait of World War I


Photo: Creative Commons

Gavin Clingham, Staff Writer

1917 is a film directed by Sam Mendes. He has made films such as Road To Perdition and American Beauty, but he’s been known in the 2010s for directing the latest James Bond films. For the last one he directed (2015’s Spectre), he started the film off with a long take. A long take is when a scene doesn’t cut to a different shot or angle, and it is instead all filmed in one take. The movie starts off with this long take where the camera follows a masked man as he walks through a Dia de Los Muertos festival, and it is at first not revealed who he is. This was praised by moviegoers and cinephiles alike. This inspired Sam Mendes to make his next project just that by filming it all in one single shot. With legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, Sam Mendes has been able to craft this wonderful technical achievement.

1917 follows two British soldiers as they endure the hardships of World War I. Their names are Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay). They are given a mission to travel to the Second Battalion to call off a deadly trap set by the Germans that will result in the loss of 1,600 soldiers. The telephone lines have been cut so they are forced to journey past enemy lines in order to deliver the message. With the mission being dangerous, it becomes personal when Blake is told that his brother is in the Second Battalion—meaning that if they fail to deliver the vital message to call off the attack, 1,600 men will die, and Blake’s brother will be one of them. 

The film has an interesting plot, but it’s even better once you learn that it was created based on the stories told to Mendes by his grandfather. It has the perfect storyline for a war movie. It captures the danger of trench warfare and it is entertaining to see. The characters that take you through this story are perfectly crafted and I hope that the two stars of this film are no longer unknown actors. 

If this film should be a front runner for anything, it should be technical achievement. Roger Deakins has pulled it off again with his amazing camera work, and Sam Mendes crafted some incredible tracking shots that have made him one of my newest favorite directors. As a cinephile and someone fond of making movies, I could not stop staring in awe at how the whole thing was crafted. With the production design and also how brilliantly the one take is shot, I’m blown away by it. 

1917 is an entertaining movie. It’s the perfect child of Saving Private Ryan, but the child makes sure you know that it’s not just a complete carbon copy of his awesome dad. It has so many amazing aspects and is an incredible theatrical experience. I will definitely have to rewatch it to appreciate it even more.

Universal Pictures