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A race against time - Review for 1917

Scofield looking on in trench. From 1917, released by Universal Studios
Scofield looking on in trench. From 1917, released by Universal Studios

1917: A lasting experience.


          Skyfall director Sam Mendes joins forces with legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins to bring one of the most revolutionary films in years to the big screen. While the premise of a war movie based around two soldiers delivering a message does not sound like a hit, this movie brings a lot more to the table. Mendes decided that the movie would benefit if the viewer could go with the two soldiers, Lance Corporals Schofield and Blake in real time to deliver their message. So the idea for a movie that looks like one long take was born. A period accurate World War I movie filmed to look like one continuous shot, once I heard this I was immediately on board.

Scofield and Blake discussing what to do next. From 1917, released by Universal Studios


          Mendes based his screenplay for 1917 on the war stories his grandfather, a messenger in World War I told him as a child. While Lance Corporals Blake and Schofield were not real people in history, they are both loosely inspired by Mendes’s grandfather. The movie's plot revolves around aforementioned Blake and Schofield, friends through war, that are tasked with a mission to deliver a vital message to call off an attack in just a few hours. The Germans have feigned a retreat to trick a Sergeant Mackenzie (played by Benedict Cumberbatch with a wicked scar) to attack. The lives of 1,600 men are in the hands of Blake and Schofield, and the task proves daunting from the get go. Blake, an inexperienced soldier played by Dean-Charles Chapman, is roped into the mission because of his brother being a part of  the upcoming attack, and he must choose one person to join him on the mission. He chooses Schofield, played by George MacKay, a cautious and battle-scarred soldier that is indifferent to war, yet knows nothing else. The movie is not more about the mission itself than it is about what it takes for them to get to their destination. Many obstacles along the way slow the progress down and delay the delivery as the battle approaches ever closer. 

Director Sam Mendes talks to Chapman and MacKay. From 1917, released by Universal Studios

          Going into the casting Sam Mendes wanted to choose relatively unknown actors to play the main roles, and he chose well. The two soldiers we are paired with are brilliantly portrayed by Chapman and MacKay. The best performance however has to go to George MacKay, his performance was one of few words, but even without much dialogue from Schofield, you knew exactly what he was feeling at every moment. Besides the characters that drive the movie, there are still a lot of positives to take away. To start off, the cinematography was masterwork, while it may seem like a gimmick to fill seats, the one take works in favor of the movie and never feels out of place. Roger Deakins did an amazing job of bringing Mendes’s vision to life and showing the beauty of nature juxtaposed with the horrors of war.  On the other hand there is a slight lack of character development. While most war movies just have random drones running around while the plot happens, (I’m looking at you Dunkirk), 1917 chooses to focus on the people in the war and let the story of these men be told. However, it does feel like we could learn more about these soldiers we are with the entire movie. We barely have a minute with them before they are on their mission, and only a few major dialogue scenes between them. That is my biggest gripe with the film, beside one scene that afterwards will have you scratching your head asking how that happened. But I could have missed something within the scene itself.

           Overall, 1917 is a wonderful movie that showcases some of the best of storytelling through technique and writing in a long time. It left me speechless immediately after I had left the theater thinking about what I had seen for the next few hours. I cannot recommend this movie more, if you're a fan of good movies or just good cinematography this is a must see. It is on my short list for best movies of 2019 at this point. 

Favorite Quote- “I hoped today would be a good day. Hope is a dangerous thing.”

+Strong Cast

+Good Writing

+Amazing Camera Work

+Lasting moments

-Slight Lack of Character Development

My Final Score: A

iMDb score- 8.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes- 90%

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