**NO SPOILERS** Written by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairnes, directed by Sam Mendes, 1917 is based on stories told to them by their grandfathers who served in WWI. The film follows two British soldiers, Lance Corporals Blake and Schofield, on their mission to get stand down orders from General Erinmore to Colonel MacKenzie, who’s regime is about to fall into a German trap.
They spent 6 months in rehearsals, walking fields, digging trenches 1 mile long, and make changes to townscapes as they went through the process to make sure the movement and sets kept the film moving forward and true to the story. Filmed in one-shot (I think it’s actually two one-shot pieces, but I’m not going to nit-pick.), this perspective draws you in to the harrowing mission these two young soldiers are given. The audience is with them every step of the way, in real time, and and often left in wonderment how they manage to get as far as they do.
Lance Corporal Blake, played by Dean-Charles Chapman, has a brother, Lieutenant Joseph Blake, played by Richard Madden, in the regime which is about to attack Germans who have set an ambush trap for them. Lance Corporal Schofield, played by George McKay, is chosen to go with him to deliver the urgent message to stand down. General Erinmore, played by Colin Firth, has learned new information about the upcoming attack and fellow British Soldiers, the phones are down, and the only way he can get the message to them is by sending these two to reach Colonel MacKenzie, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
This film is gorgeous to watch. The camera work is seamless, tight when it needs to be tight, and far reaching when it needs a wider view. There are plenty of moments when I held my breath, when I wanted to warn them, or when I wanted to close my eyes but didn’t for fear of missing something. I stayed strong (emotionally) until a scene in which the camera stays on Schofield traveling in the back of a transport. I felt so much for him and Blake in that moment, it was everything I had to keep the complete flood gates from opening. The emotional weight of the film still sits with me as I write and I saw this film two days ago. As the credits rolled, the audience sat quietly. Probably so we could collect ourselves before going back out to the real world.
The dialogue isn’t intrusive or jam-packed throughout which is excellent because too much talking can ruin the moments. Just two guys talking about regular soldier type things as they come up and not continuously. One thing, it’s cool to have Coling Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, and some other larger names in the film; however, their roles are so small in the grand scheme of things and the two leads are so strong and compelling to watch, the film could’ve done without them and still have been amazing. I’m sure a lot of people wanted a part in this story.
An amazing war film to watch. A must see on the big screen but will translate well to television if you choose to wait for DVD or streaming. Watch the trailer below: