I have rarely, if ever, seen a full house at the cinema sit in silence as the credits roll.
You could sense people’s inability to move, dumbfounded by the brilliance of what they had just watched. It was eerily quiet as people finally began to climb out from their seats and head towards the exit, leaving behind the cold, harsh reality of war on the screen in order to return to the world people fought valiantly for over 100 years ago.
1917, directed by Sam Mendes, tells the story of two British soldiers assigned with the daunting task of delivering an urgent message across enemy lines, in order to stop a potential massacre of over 1600 comrades.
Although it has similar tones to Dunkirk and Saving Private Ryan, this is unlike any war movie that has come before it.
The thing that has got everyone talking is the decision to make the film one continuous shot from the first frame to the last. Whilst we have seen this before in sequences on TV shows, nothing of this magnitude has ever been attempted, and the result is remarkable.
The ability it has to drop you into the trenches along with our protagonists is incredible. You feel every breathe, every gunshot, you feel like you have become the third sorry soldier to join them on their mission. It’s gut-punching, heart-wrenching and edge of your seat stuff.
Roger Deakins won his first Oscar last year for his amazing work on Blade Runner 2049, and it is hard to look past him winning it again for his cinematography in 1917. In order to make a movie one continuous take all the way through requires some creative flair in order to not make it repetitive or boring, and he has come up with some really unique angles that keep you focused on the screen.
Another outstanding feat the film accomplishes is the ability to showcase the true horror of war without the need for bloodshed. Sure, there are incredibly tense moments and a few fight scenes here and there, but there is no Omaha Beach-esc sequence. Instead, as you walk through the fields full of dead animals and abandoned buildings, the question at large is one many ask themselves everyday: ‘What was the point?’
The script, written by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, is based on stories told by the director’s grandfather Alfred Mendes. Despite a lack of character development, we get enough to make us care about our two soldiers, played by George McKay and Dean-Charles Chapman.
There are a plethora of cameos in this movie, and it could be seen as ballsy for Mendes to literally have all these ‘A-listers’ in the movie for one or two scenes only. But that gamble massively pays off. This is McKay’s movie. He plays the role extremely well and is unlucky not to be nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.
This is truly an extremely immersive cinematic experience that needs to be watched on the biggest screen you can find.