A war film that looks like it was shot in one go: “Skyfall” director Sam Mendes is involved 1917 (2019) made something almost impossible possible and maintains the illusion for two hours that we as an audience are there up close and personal with the war. We reveal more about this in our review.
Turmoil in the trenches.
The plot summary
At the height of the First World War, two British soldiers, Schofield (George Mackay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are tasked with completing an almost impossible mission. In a relentless race against time, they must venture deep into enemy territory and deliver a message that will prevent hundreds of their comrades from falling into a deadly trap. The life of Blake’s brother also depends on the success of this mission. He condenses the grueling war years into a single day that decides the life and death of 1,600 people.
1917 Movie Meaning of ending
With its surprise wins in the Best Drama and Best Director categories at this year’s Golden Globes, Sam Mendes’ World War I epic “1917” has become one of the front runners of this year’s awards season overnight. This may come as a surprise to those who have already seen the film. After all, the intense drama is not only really good, but also fits thematically into any film award race. But in contrast to the competition, “1917” only had a limited release in cinemas at the end of December 2019 and will not receive its wide theatrical release until January 10, 2020. With bad luck, it could happen that not enough people turn out to vote in time have become aware of the film to help him win with their vote. But his march through the Hollywood Foreign Press Association awards ceremony could ensure that here and there people who are not familiar with the film go back to the cinema or dig out their screener to get their own idea of how great “1917” is has now become. And this much straight away: Mendes deserves every (directing) award in the world for his mammoth project. And the film itself proves to be an equally emotional and rousing war drama, which is not only so outstanding because a certain production detail immediately stands out.
On Sam Mendes’ command, all of the extras in the background of George Mackay run across the meadow for a single planned sequence.
You can’t avoid addressing this exact detail first: Sam Mendes (“James Bond 007: Specter”) designed his eighth feature film as if it had been shot in one go. In technical jargon, something like this is called a one-shot. And although we are not dealing with a real one (as in “Victoria” ) but rather with a fictional one (as in “Birdman” ), the result is almost overwhelming. It is possible to roughly guess where exactly the individual cuts were placed, concealing them as much as possible: When cameraman Roger Deakins, Oscar-winning for “Blade Runner 2049” , films some scenes in the pitch black darkness underground, this is an opportunity Such scenes, of course, in order to then start again. By the way, according to Sam Mendes, the longest scene filmed in one go in “1917” is just 12 minutes – so you can calculate how many cuts there actually are in “1917”. And apart from a dramaturgically intended cut about halfway through the film, none of them are directly visible. Editor Lee Smith (“Interstellar”) did a great job perfecting this project and, after “Dunkirk ,” is almost guaranteed to win his second Oscar for it. But the fact that “1917” gives the impression of a one-shot doesn’t just have the sensational and PR value of a gimmick, but is entirely in the service of the film, which is able to convey the horror and tension on and between the fronts of the First World War to the viewer even more intensively and (almost) in real time.
In “1917,” Deakins follows the two military comrades and friends Schofield and Blake. At first just through the hustle and bustle in the trenches, where you quickly get a feel for the huge production effort. In the background there are countless characters, all of whom are doing their day’s work, while the camera is always glued to the two protagonists. Sam Mendes, who also wrote the screenplay for his film, is not just concerned with portraying the sometimes dull everyday life of war as authentically as possible. His “1917” is also and above all a story about a deep friendship, the intimacy of which is often in direct contrast to the harsh backdrop in which it really unfolds. Schofield and Blake depend on each other, trust each other and yet know at every second that even one wrong step, one wrong action or, quite banally, the oft-quoted being in the wrong place at the wrong time means death could; and that dying in front of one’s best friend would forever burden the other with guilt and grief. George Mackay (“Captain Fantastic”) and Dean-Charles Chapman (“Blinded by the Light”) express this gripping dichotomy excellently and carry “1917” completely on their shoulders. The cast of well-known Hollywood stars such as Colin Firth (“Kingsman”) , Benedict Cumberbatch (“Doctor Strange”) and Mark Strong (“Shazam!”) do quite well on paper, but with their relatively inconspicuous supporting roles they leave the stage completely their younger colleagues, who present the emotional range from shocked to deeply sad to hopeful so lifelike and approachable that any award nomination is justified.
Dramaturgically, “1917” works almost like a road movie. The two main characters fight their way through various stations on their way from their own front to another British battalion in the bombed-out no-man’s land. Abandoned shelters, a half-derelict farm, the ruins of a destroyed city: Sam Mendes goes big when it comes to choosing his settings and, together with Roger Deakins, finds – in the truest sense of the word – enormous panoramas that depict omnipresent violence and destruction in equal measure to depict them, but also to find a morbid beauty in them. For example, when Adam Mackay walks in the middle of the night through the ruins of a completely destroyed city, lit up as daylight by the bombs, Roger Deakins finds such spectacular, almost surrealistic images that this alone should earn him his next Oscar win – or in his case, probably sooner : should. After all, he has been ignored often enough in recent years. What is particularly successful are all the moments in which the two protagonists meet other people in this wasteland. Even though an encounter between Schofield and a civilian and a baby turns out to be a bit too touching and is intended to express a little too clearly the emotions of those who have so far been left cold by the whole thing, what remains above all is a warm-hearted and never sentimental meeting with one Group of young soldiers in memory. Here humanity once again breaks through between the otherwise painfully authentic war settings, which Sam Mendes is happy to savor. Even if they are characters whose demise you wouldn’t have expected at all…
Conclusion: “1917” is a brilliantly illustrated, outstandingly conceptualized war epic with two formidable main actors, with which director and author Sam Mendes succeeds in transporting an intimacy and humanity into the war that makes the horror surrounding the characters seem even more depressing leaves. A masterpiece!
“1917” can be seen in USA cinemas from January 16th.