A one-shot war movie where the camera follows two protagonists and ends as soon as the adventure concludes!

It was not the first one-shot movie in the world (Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope was); it wasn’t the most outstanding war movie of all time (there have been many before) but what made the audience notice 1917 out of the many films to come out in the last few years was the intensity with which it was made. It was filmed as a one-shot war movie where the camera continuously followed two protagonists, and ended as soon as the adventure concluded. The continuous take was the only way director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins believed the film would look realistic, and how right they were, not even they would have imagined.

The Plot

Two young British soldiers, Lance Corporal William Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Thomas Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are selected for an impossible task during World War I. Unknown to the British Forces, the Germans have set a trap for them and are waiting to ambush them and cause heavy casualties. Since Blake’s brother is a lieutenant in the Second Battalion under Colonel Mackenzie, he and his partner are selected to deliver a message, one that will not only make the Colonel call off the attack but save countless lives as well. Do they succeed in their mission or not, that’s what 1917 is all about!

The Good

From the moment the film begins until the last frame, 1917 keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. It has been filmed in such a way that it looks like one continuous shot, giving the feeling of real-time action to the audience. With the fate of over 1600 British soldiers hanging in balance, the two battle it out from no man’s land to the empty German trenches, and after alerting their men that the Germans had indeed retreated, they move into the next phase where nearly everything that shouldn’t happen, happens. Every camera movement, be it a steady shot or a 360 degree one, is so well calculated that you will end feeling the pressure that the characters face on the screen.

The director Sam Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins and their camera crew must be commended for disguising the cuts in such an intelligent way that even the most ardent fan of war films wouldn’t be able to point out the intelligent jumps in the story. It wouldn’t have been possible without the brilliant performances of all the actors especially George Mackay who occupies the screen for the film’s entire run. Be it using the natural light or flares to give them light source at night, the team managed to do a fantastic job, creating breathtaking frames, mesmerizing the audience as if they were on the field with the soldiers instead of watching the action in a cinema.

The Bad

There was hardly anything bad about 1917; some thought that the anonymity of the actors might harm the film but it is their being unknown that helps the film the most. The audience connects with their characters instead of the actors playing them, giving them a film they were least expecting when they entered the theatre. Thomas Newman’s score takes the film to new heights but you don’t end up remembering it, because the visuals are far too powerful!

The Verdict 4.5/5

1917 doesn’t justify war or peace or chronicles the destruction of the First World War. It pays tribute to the brave men who fought against the Germans and pushed them back for good. How that became possible is what this film tells us by taking forward the story of two brothers; one who has orders to call off the very attack that might end the life of the other. How the younger brother and his friend manage to travel nine-miles and achieve what seems an impossible feat is what this film is all about. What’s more impressive is the fact that their travel was shown as a single take, using special effects, technical gimmickry and action choreography that was never done at this level. The endless rehearsals, the blocking of actors, the emotions of characters and the intelligently disguised cuts add to the film’s charisma as well as to the audience’s suspense, who keep searching for cuts but in vain.

It would be really hard for the audience to recover from the effects of 1917 since it shocks, rattles and emotionally drains them, all during the two hours they are glued to their seats. This Sam Mendes film is a modern-day marvel that is only to be witnessed in a theatre. If it doesn’t end up winning all the technical awards it would be a grave injustice to the most technically sound film in recent times. And if it does, it would be an achievement, since it deserves every accolade in the book for being too good to be true.

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