Pros: Stunning cinematography by Roger Deakins; fantastic editing, the whole film was shot as if in one take; excellent acting by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman; music by Thomas Newman; costumes and scenery Cons: None 1917
Genre war drama
Directed by Sam Mendes
Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman (Lance Corporal Blake), George MacKay (Lance Corporal Schofield), Mark Strong (Captain Smith), Andrew Scott (Lt. Leslie), Richard Madden (Lt. Blake), Claire Duburcq (Lauri), Colin Firth ( General Erinmore), Benedict Cumberbatch (Colonel MacKenzie), Daniel Mace (Sergeant Sanders), Adrian Scarborough (Major Hepburn), Jamie Parker (Lieutenant Richards), etc.
Студии DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, Universal Pictures
Year of release 2019
For the British, the Great War remains precisely the First World War, which literally shook the foundations of British society. The war, to which young guys with joyful smiles on their faces went to bravura marches and shouts of “Hurray!”, turned out to be a severe blow to the pride, self-confidence, and self-awareness of the inhabitants of Foggy Albion. Almost every British family has someone who died in that war: great-grandfather, grandfather, great-uncle, etc. There is such a relative in the Sam Mendes family. Like Peter Jackson in the case of They Shall Not Grow Old, the director also dedicated his film to his grandfather, a First World War soldier who became the prototype for one of the heroes of the film, Lance Corporal Blake, a guy who told funny stories.
As you can easily guess from the title, the events of 1917 take place in the third year of the war, when all illusions about its imminent end were dispelled and the soldiers rotting in the trenches had already forgotten what they were fighting for. In the spring of 1917, the Germans hastily withdrew their forces to previously prepared reliable positions on the Hindenburg Line, turning the entire space between the old and new trenches into scorched earth. The heroes of the film, Lance Corporal Blake and Lance Corporal Schofield, are given the order to cross the old front line and across no man’s land to reach the soldiers of the Devonshire Regiment, in which Blake’s older brother serves with the rank of lieutenant. The Devonshires are preparing for a suicidal attack, unaware that well-prepared, superior enemy forces await them. Two soldiers must convey the order to cancel the attack, preventing a massacre.
Although the overall situation at the front and the consequences of the tactical withdrawal of the Germans are shown quite accurately in 1917, the details and characters of this story are fictitious. It is rather a kind of collective image of the soldiers and events of that period of the First World War.
Although 1917 is a very intimate film, because it is really the story of two soldiers, and most of the time you will see exactly two, or even one, person in the frame. However, this story is told on a truly incredible scale. Cinematographer Roger Deakins, in my opinion, is the most outstanding cinematographer of our time, having worked on such films as The Goldfinch, Blade Runner 2049, Sicario, True Grit, No Country for Old Men, Skyfall, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Fargo , this time he outdid himself. It seems that the entire 1917, from the first to the last frame, was shot with one camera and one take, without splicing. Of course, much of the credit for this goes to the film’s editor, Lee Smith, but it’s really difficult to overestimate the camera work. A fantastic picture worthy of the biggest screen. And although the authors failed to beat the scene on the Dunkirk beach from Joe Wright’s Atonement, the fragment with the attack of the Devonshires in 1917 came very, very close. Incredible shooting, perfect work by production designers, costume designers, make-up artists, crowd coordinators, etc.
1917 is Sam Mendes’s anti-war manifesto, and he doesn’t shy away from showing the ugliness, disgusting, absurdity and injustice of war. The heroes of the film literally walk over corpses, up to their ears in pus, blood and dirt. They kill boys like them, without malice or hatred, in an animal desire to survive and fulfill their mission. Although the film’s cinematography is almost flawless, it is unbearably difficult to look at most of the time. This is a war without embellishment, without pretentious and slightly foppish games with time, as in Dunkirk. Sometimes the picture in 1917 is so reminiscent of what we saw in the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old that it simply takes one’s breath away.
Although you’ll see a lot of big names in the credits of 1917, like Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch, all of these big-name actors only have cameo roles, some of them literally a minute – no, that’s not an understatement – screen time. The brunt of the story falls on the shoulders of two actors, Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay, mostly the latter. And I am sure that working with Sam Mendes will be a breakthrough point in the careers of both actors. And if Dean-Charles Chapman, whom you could see in the role of Tommen Baratheon in the Game of Thrones series, plays a very responsible, a little frightened, but still preserving youthful enthusiasm and maximalism of a soldier, then the role of George MacKay (Captain Fantastic, 11.22.63) more difficult and difficult. McKay really managed to convey the feelings of a soldier, already burned to the ground by this war, fighting out of inertia, afraid to die, but forced to climb into the thick of it. George MacKay has many strong scenes in this film, often scenes without any words at all, and he definitely deserves the highest praise for this role.
It is worth noting the amazing soundtrack of the film. Both the mixing of the sounds of the front and battle, and the magnificent music of Thomas Newman. I hope that the composer, who already has 15 (!!!) Oscar nominations, will be lucky at least this time and add the coveted prize to his two BAFTAs, six Grammys and six Emmy Awards.
If we talk about awards, then 1917 collected a solid “iconostasis”. The film has already received 44 awards, including two Golden Globe Awards – Best Drama Film and Best Director for Sam Mendes. In addition, the film is nominated for 9 (!) BAFTA Awards (the award ceremony will take place on February 2, 2020) and 10 (!!!) Oscars (awarding on February 9, 2020). And, apparently, it is 1917 that will win in the main categories.
1917 is definitely one of the top films of 2020 (it is considered the film of 2019 worldwide, having been released in the UK on December 4, 2019, and in the US on December 25, 2019). I repeat, it’s worth watching it on the largest screen with the highest quality projector available in your city. Believe me, it’s worth it.
Sam Mendes’ stunning anti-war manifesto, comparable to Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now