On the cover of the ‘1917’ DVD there is a quote: “One of the greatest war films of all time”. And despite not being a huge fan of war-films, I’d have to agree this is pretty special.
1917 tells the story of two English soldiers on the Western Front, Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay), who are assigned to deliver a message to another Battalion that could potentially save the lives of 1600 of their fellow comrades, including Blake’s brother. The problem is that the other Battalion is about 9 miles away through enemy territory. Time and family bonds are of the essence.
Despite the way they were brought together and both the horror and futility of war, the two soldiers experience triumph and tragedy, friendship and solidarity on their short but perilous journey.
‘1917’ directed by Sam Mendes, won two Oscars – for cinematography and VFX – and was nominated for 10. The film is shot and edited to look as if the entire piece is a single continuous take, and apart from one instance, it is difficult to see where the editing cuts have occurred. The camera follows the pair of soldiers constantly, sometimes showing them, sometimes showing what they see but you are always intimately involved in their experience. The replication of both English and German trenches, the body-filled moonscape of no-man’s land and the depiction of WWI trench warfare is the best I have seen on film. Nothing is shied away from, which can make for some uncomfortable viewing at times.
The movie is loosely based on a story Mendes grandfather, and WWI veteran, told him and despite there being faint echoes of Saving Private Ryan the movie is a completely enthralling humanist story, set in a time and place where humans were expendable but humanity was seemingly in very short supply.