1917 Review

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1917 is a war drama directed by Sam Mendes initially released on December 4, 2019, and is nominated for several academy awards including Best Picture. 1917 was showered with praise upon release among critics and casual viewers. The movie focuses on two characters played by Dean-Charles Chapman and George Mackay, yet has many other stars such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, and Collin Firth.

1917 takes the idea of a war movie and uniquely crafts a piece that appears to be taken in one continuous shot. Of course, it’s not really done in one shot, but it uses techniques to make it seem so. This usage of a continuous shot immerses the viewer into the chaotic world of World War I unlike any other way before.

 

Story

During World War I, two British soldiers (Schofield and Blake) are ordered to deliver a message that could possibly save the lives of thousands of soldiers, including Blake’s brother. In order to deliver this message, Schofield and Blake must cross and sneak through enemy territory and risk being taken prisoner or killed. The entire film focuses on Schofield and Blake’s journey from Point A to Point B. The journey is a suspenseful and exciting ride, as they come across many different obstacles and locations that make their mission far more treacherous than expected.

Characters

The movie is heavily focused on the two main characters, Schofield and Blake. Each of them goes through a plethora of emotions and nearly every moment in the movie reveals something about their character. Without spoiling, they both experience major struggles that push them to the very edge. While there are other characters, they normally only have a couple of minutes of screen time. That being said, each character has a purpose in progressing the plot forward or creating a change in one of the main characters.

Cinematography

The film’s most successful and creative aspect is easily the cinematography. As stated before, the camera moves in the film to make it seem as if it were one continuous shot. This is done so the audience can experience every second of the main character’s journey through the malicious trenches and landscapes of World War I. The one-shot also emphasizes the horrors of war, especially when they are traveling through tight spaces, trenches, and underground tunnels. When in these tight spaces, the camera shows many close-ups of dead bodies and other war-torn objects to effectively immerse the audience. On top of that, this movie has some of the most impactful shots ever seen in war movies.

For example, there is a shot in the movie where Schofield is running through the beginning of a battle, while trench whistles ring and bombs explode around him. This shot perfectly builds tension and suspense, emphasizing the little time Schofield has left to deliver his message. Many shots like this are prevalent in the film, some chaotic, disturbing, and even peaceful.

 

Set Design

One notable aspect of the movie is the set design. The set design in the movie is captivating due to the realistic depictions of the destruction of war and the overall accuracy of the setting. During the movie, many things are going on at once, and there’s always something to occupy a viewer’s attention, especially observant ones. The movie’s setting is convincing, all thanks to the movie’s set and costume design.

Lighting

Another element that elevates the movie is the usage of lighting. The usage of lighting in several different set pieces helps the cinematography work its wonders to provide the audience with exciting and nerve-racking shots. There are many moments in the movie where lighting is used to set the tone, especially when they are exploring tunnels and a certain village later in the movie.

Conclusion

1917 is a cinematographic masterpiece, using every element of the art to create one of the most innovative and captivating screenplays ever seen in a film. While many will find the story to be predictable or incredibly simple, it is the journey the characters embark on that makes the movie unlike any other. 1917 is one of the most innovative war films in film history, and worth a watch for any war movie fan, or really, any cinema fan.

Score: 10/10