1917 is directed by Sam Mendes and it is an epic war drama made to look like it’s one continuous shot. The movie revolves around two soldiers who have to deliver a message to call off an attack which will result in the massacre of 1600 men including one of the soldier’s brother. The movie stars George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard Madden.
If you’ve read my Jojo Rabbit review you’d know that I hate war movies so I was dreading the day I’d have to watch 1917. In fact this week I had to deal with the dilemma of whether or not I’m gonna watch it, a dilemma which didn’t get resolved till literally twenty minutes before my screening started. My body just got ready even though my mind wasn’t fully committed to it and somehow I dragged myself to my local cinema and watched it and I am so eternally grateful that I did because ironically I didn’t want this movie to end. It shocked me how much I love this movie. It’s movies like these which I am grateful for since they force me to step out of my comfort zone and as you can tell I’m glad I did.
1917 is a masterful exercise in tension and suspense. I don’t think that in all of my experiences at the cinema I’ve ever had one so anxiety-filled as this one. I was gripping my armrests and was on the edge of my seat every other scene. There were times where the audience would talk amongst themselves so loud out of anxious dread that I actually thought it was part of the score. Many people compared this movie to a video-game which I can understand but to me, someone who rarely ever touches a console, it felt more like a Broadway show with an insane budget because of how intensely choreographed it is and the best part is that I didn’t think that way while watching the movie. It never once crossed my mind that this was all choreographed, it felt natural which added even more to the experience. The one-continuous shot technique was masterfully achieved and with Roger Deakins’s signature style we got one of the most gorgeous looking movies in recent years.
The beauty of the technical achievements of 1917 is that even though you are pulled out of the movie to admire how amazing it looks or how they got that specific shot or if they cut in that particular scene, it doesn’t ruin the experience. For me, noticing all of these little things just made me appreciate Mendes’ vision a lot more because to execute this brilliant concept masterfully, it just astonishes me. I was pretty concerned however that the movie would be two soldiers anxiously waiting for a “boss level” threat, overcome it and move on till the message gets delivered and I was proven wrong because not only is a journey like this immensely difficult, soldiers can easily die and there is a constant sense of threat achieved partly because of the one-shot and the brilliant use of music which acts similarly like that of a horror movie. Sometimes it gets really loud and sometimes it’s not even present. I was in a constant state of paranoia with this movie, something, not even the best horror movies have done for me.
Unfortunately due to the amazing technical achievement of this movie, not a lot of people are talking about the performances from the main two leads. Dean-Charles Chapman gives a likeable performance as Blake even though I personally thought he was a bit reckless. That being said the true star of 1917 is George MacKay who deserves to be Oscar-nominated for his work here. He delivers a raw, emotional and grounded performance which moved me to tears twice. There are two scenes, one is a scene where he’s alone and starts breaking down because what he has experienced is something no human should ever have to go through, the horrible circumstances he has been put through. He tries many times to bury his feelings down, he’s very emotionally reserved but in this one scene he just lets it out but even so, you can tell he can’t let himself really grieve because time is running short, it’s heartbreaking. The other scene is the scene in the trailers with the long run and chaotic background, having seen the movie, all of the leadup to that run with the intense but somewhat triumphant music, it made me shed a tear and root incredibly hard for him.
Overall 1917 presents the beautiful marriage of great technical achievement and an emotionally-rich story to make one of the best experiences at the cinema I’ve had in quite some time. The acting is great, MacKay delivers an Oscar-worthy performance. The brilliant concept of a war movie filmed to look like one continuous shot is executed masterfully and with Deakins’ cinematography, it makes for a one truly gorgeous looking movie. It also made for an incredibly intense experience which locked me in a constant state of paranoia.