Updated: May 26, 2020
Film: 1917 Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George Mackay, Richard Madden, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong & Andrew Scott. Director: Sam Mendes Editor: Lee Smith Cinematographer: Roger Deakins Production: DreamWorks Pictures Composer: Thomas Newman Distribution: Universal Pictures Review By: Antonios Romniou Rating: 5 X's out of 5 X's There are countless films based on World War II. The Pianist, Inglorious Basterds, Atonement, Dunkirk, and of course Saving Private Ryan (SPR), just to name a few. Not too many films based on World War I. There are more documentaries on WWI than anything else. Most recently, Peter Jackson came out with “They Shall not grow old.” This incredible documentary showed audiences a mesmerizing first hand recount from those who fought in WWI. It brought soldiers to life with colorization and the telling of their stories to solidify the reality of WWI. War in itself is uncertain from those who experienced it. Not knowing what the day will bring and not knowing if you will live to see the sunrise. In the war drama 1917, Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, SkyFall) brings a superb powerhouse emotionally driven story of two young soldiers. The story of sacrifice and true innocence. Right away, Mendes introduces the audience to an uncertainty. Inspired by his grandfather’s true storytelling, Mendes puts audiences right in the thick of things in the film by introducing our heroes, Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay). Blake is summoned to pick a buddy and report for a briefing to go on a mission. They realize that they are reporting before General Erinmore (Colin Firth), “It must be something big if the Generals here…” Says Blake. The uncertainty then turns into a harsh reality and immediate fight for survival. These two young men have no choice but to be courageous. The General briefs the men on orders to deliver a message, to call off attacks by a nearby battalion. The General also gives an emotional attachment for Blake, his older brother is in the battalion. If Blake and Schofield fail to deliver the message then Blakes brother will die and “it will be a massacre.” We follow our two soldiers, who embark on a maze-like death-defying obstacle course through a damp April day in the ‘ruins’ of France. Mendes and Director of Cinematography, Roger Deakins bring our two heroes through an immersive and captivating landscape that can only be seen to be believed. Only the likes of Director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu have accomplished. The film is shot in one continuous shot, from the moment we meet our two soldiers. Almost like one continuous scene. Iñárritu did this technique with two of his films, Birdman or (The unexpected virtue of ignorance) and in The Revenant. For both films Iñárritu won the Oscar for best directing. This technique makes the audience feel like they are walking side by side with the soldiers. No cut to black and no pause, just continuation. The audience feels the exhaustion the soldiers are feeling along their gripping and emotional journey. No doubt, Mendes earned his wins at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards and of course his nomination for an Oscar for this feat. On the way we find our soldiers coming to terms with decisions between life and death. Both human instincts and survival instincts take over. As they go behind enemy lines, they find themselves in predicaments that unintentionally put their life in danger. The two men find themselves fighting for each other and looking to complete the mission, not for a cheap piece of tin that some call a medal but for honor and to save lives. WWI was always referred to as the ‘Great War’, the war to end all wars. WWI mobilized over 59 million troops with over 29 million injured and over 8 million dead. WWI single handedly changed the direction of Europe and the country of England. In 1917 intensity comes naturally through the emotions of the actors. You feel what their feeling. Chapman and MacKay portray astounding vulnerability that is uncomfortable to watch. The film makes the audience feel the tireless desperations our soldiers are going through. Similar to how impactful WWII was to the United States WWI was to the United Kingdom. Arguably the greatest war movie is Saving Private Ryan. Both 1917 and SPR have similarities. The main plot is following soldiers behind enemy lines to deliver a message. Along the way our soldiers encounter life and death situations. Moments that question their character and moments that initiate human and survival instincts. To Americans, the portrayal of bravery, honor, and courage is what defies an American soldier and SPR defines that. The soldiers risk their lives as they track through Normandy, France on a mission to save their fellow soldier/brother. Both films have similar plot lines, but both films stand on their own and it isn't fair to compare the two. What Saving Private Ryan is to Americans, 1917 is to the British. 1917 embodies the honor, courage, and resiliency that capsules a British soldier. 1917 is the Saving Private Ryan for the brits! 1917 is a must see. It's not surprising that it has won at the Golden Globes. With 10 Academy Award nominations it won’t be surprising if the film succeeds and takes home some more hardware. See this film in theatres if you can, the experience itself will be unmatched elsewhere. I know I'll be going back to experience this beautiful film again!