One of the frontrunners for this year’s Oscar for Best Picture is Sam Mendes’ epic World War I film, 1917, starring Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch among others.
Mendes (Director of Skyfall, Road to Perdition and American Beauty) helms this film, which has been nominated for ten Oscars including: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Makeup/Hairstyling, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing. The film already took home wins at the Golden Globes in Best Picture–Drama, and Best Director.
The film is a taut thriller filled with non-stop tense moments as Lance Corporal Blake and Lance Corporal Schofield, officers in the British army are tasked with going through no man’s land, behind enemy lines, through a web of peril to deliver a message to their fellow soldiers to call off an offensive as where they plan to attack is a trap. The attack is planned for the following morning at dawn and time is short.
One of the most unique parts of the film is how it is shot as a “single shot.” Meaning the entire film is one continuous scene. It shows the soldiers on the run through the multitude of dangers without stopping. There are a few places where the scenes were “cut” when it transitions from outside to underground in the trench, but the feel of the movie is a non-stop, pulse-pounding, action-packed stream that never lets up.
Mendes, who also had a hand in the screenplay, co-written with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, is based on stories of the Great War from his own grandfather, Lance Corporal Alfred Hubert Mendes.
Mendes comments on his inspiration for the film:
“Our film is fiction, but certain scenes and aspects of it are drawn from stories he told me, and ones told him by his fellow soldiers. This simple kernel of an idea—of a single man carrying a message from one place to another—stayed with me and became the starting point for 1917.”
The film, like many modern war films that precede it, focuses on both the hellish nature of war, especially trench warfare, but also the heroism and willingness of soldiers to sacrifice their own lives for the fellow countrymen and the cause. There are also some similarities to Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan set in the First World War.
I really enjoyed the film. I think the cinematography and the single shot approach was unique and impacting. The story was compelling. The acting was superb. There were a lot of things the film did well. The score and sound brought an atmospheric feeling enhancing the drama and tension building on the screen.
Was it the best movie of the year? I am not sure.
Are the other movies among it any better? I don’t know.
Would I be disappointed if it won? No.
It is definitely worth your time to go see if you enjoy action, thrillers, and war films.