The new film “1917” is a film unlike any other film that is in theaters right now. Set at the pinnacle of World War I, “1971” depicts the Great War and creates an immersive, powerful world that left me, as an audience member, moved with emotion numerous times.
The movie follows to young British soldiers, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) as they race against time to call off a British attack that will lead an ambush and cost thousands of British lives. Blake’s own brother is a member of the attack, as an added stake.
The most obvious reason this movie stands out among its peers, is the use of “one-shot technique” which makes the entire film feel it was shot in one continuous camera pan. The stylistic choice by director and screenwriter Sam Mendes makes the entire movie feel more like a race against the clock than a war movie. In that way, it shares more in common with “Uncut Gems” than it does with “Midway,” both of which came out last year as well.
But once audiences get past the choice of one-shot, the story, which was adopted from Mendes’ own paternal grandfather, will floor many. Recently, the “war movie” genre has corrected itself from its earlier days that romanticized war and painting heroes and villains on the silver screen with broad black and white strokes. This story reminds me more of 2017’s “Dunkirk,” reminding audiences how ugly war is.
And that’s why “1917” is so special. Mendes is able to mix the beauty and creativity of one-shot with the brutality and ugliness of war. Within the first thirty minutes of screen time, audience members are shown images of dead or dying men and horses alongside the greyness of the trenches. While there are times sitting in the theater where I could have thought about what other characters were doing, the film is so fast pace and nerve-racking that I left the theater with no fingernails.
As award season heats up, “1917” is a good choice to see if you want to see the mixture of ugliness and beauty.