Director Sam Mendes leads a perfectly executed cinematic strategy for battlefield drama
"1917" is nothing short of being a masterpiece. It is a story of determination, bravery and sadness on the part of those who must participate in waging war.
On April 6, 1917, during WWI, two British soldiers are commanded to deliver a message that will affect the lives of 1,600 men about to attack the Germans. If they do not succeed in their mission, a massacre will ensue. Lance corporals Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) must endure the most adverse of conditions in order to carry out the assignment. While on the perilous trek, Schofield is told by a colonel (Benedict Cumberbatch in a cameo), "There is only one way this war ends: Last man standing."
Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes ("American Beauty") also co-scripts (with Krysty Wilson-Cairns) and has based the story on a true account by his grandfather, a veteran of the Western Front. When Mendes decided to employ a one-shot technique to film, he turned to Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins ("Blade Runner 2049"), who agreed to take on the challenging task. The result is beyond spectacular. The camerawork is so up-close and personal, it's as though we, as onlookers, are the camera itself. The feel is epic and sprawling in scale. And Thomas Newman's Golden Globe-winning score, which vacillates between a Michael Mann-like subtle heart throbbing and magnificent symphonic pieces, is breathtaking.
MacKay and Chapman are superb as the frightened and highly motivated young soldiers on a terrifying journey. Their faces often reveal that which words cannot. A superior supporting cast with very little screen time includes Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Richard Madden and Andrew Scott. There was huge preparation on the part of this cast, who rehearsed for six months before filming.
"1917" looks like a study in pure dedication on every level. Its impact also managed to garner a Golden Globe for Best Director and Best Motion Picture-Drama this year. Not an easy task given the competition.