Your orders are to deliver a message, calling off tomorrow morning’s attack. If you don’t, we will lose sixteen-hundred men. Your brother among them. If you fail, it will be a massacre. Good luck.
And that is the plot of 1917, exposited within the first 5 minutes!
The film establishes the necessary backbone of the story right of the bat and immediately jumps straight into the action. Like another movie I saw recently, Uncut Gems, 1917 is a non-stop adrenaline rush. Like, literally nonstop– the film never cuts!
Legendary Director of Photography Roger Deakins, arguably the greatest living cinematographer, and his team of camera operators devised a way to present the action as if it was occurring in real-time without a break. The effect in turn is that, as an audience, we feel more connected with these characters. The action feels more in-your-face, the quieter moments feel more intimate, and the world itself feels like a real living breathing place. I found myself gawking throughout the screening, wondering just how they managed to capture certain sequences on film.
1917 also showcases an excellent array of actors. The movie’s two leads, George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, both relative unknowns, each deliver stellar performances. Fresh faces, audiences won’t see them as actors playing roles but instead as two of the millions of anonymous soldiers on the battlefield. The movie also includes cameos from several famous British stage and screen actors: Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch appear as higher-ranking officers who show up at major turning points in the story– like videogame bosses or the threshold guardians in a quest. And this film does feel like the classic hero’s journey– trying to get from point A to point B while encountering different obstacles and foes along the way. In terms of storytelling, the movie isn’t breaking new ground, but it does use age-old tropes in a new and exciting way.
Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead) once again proves himself by presenting the first World War in a visceral way such as hasn’t been seen before. This is a movie that has to be experienced on the big screen– so make sure to catch it now!