1917 takes place during WWI as two British soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) must rush across enemy lines to give orders to stop an attack and potentially save thousands of lives.
First off, one of the best cinematographer’s alive, Roger Deakins, shot this movie, and the movie appears to be largely filmed in one take. If any film would be difficult to shoot in one take, it would be a war film. However, it works brilliantly as you are experiencing the urgency and the intensity of the mission with these two men.
This story is partly inspired by director Sam Mendes’ grandfather who was a WWI veteran. And wow does Mendes expertly direct this film. He manages to make you care about these men, sets the stakes of the mission at an extremely high bar, and encapsulates the utter nightmare and chaos of war.
Overall, I’ve been a bit tired of war films, I feel like there’s always a big, critically acclaimed one every year and they start to blend together in my head. 1917 manages to stand out though, not only because it appears to be shot in one take, but because it showcases how a seemingly simple mission can go wrong in so many ways. 1917 mostly resembles Dunkirk in terms that they both use a gimmick to revitalize a war film. I would say I enjoyed 1917 more than Dunkirk though due to the spectacle and the edge of your seat intensity, but I believe Dunkirk is more complex and has better story beats.
As stated, there is not a lot of story here, it’s just these two boys race against time to deliver a message. And though we are following these boys, there’s also not whole lot of character to them. You feel for them because you are in the trenches with them and see what they are going through. So, most of the strength of the film comes from the technical feats and the visceral atmosphere.
I must also applaud the score of the film as it’s one of the best I’ve heard this year. Thomas Newman’s score just enhances what’s happening on screen and he’d be my pick for Best Original Score at the Oscars.
Overall, 1917 is worth going to a theater to see for the visuals alone. While, there’s not a lot of story or character, the cinematography, acting, music, and direction are all excellent. 1917 will stick with you once you’ve seen it, and I put it up there as one of the best war films made.
I give 1917 an A.