Matthew J. Walker
Director Sam Mendes has been known to dabble in “one-shot” film formats, a format where there are no camera cuts but rather a single continuous shot that takes advantage of multiple set-ups and landscapes; creating a seamless POV experience. In “1917”, a war drama that takes place during the heart of the first world war, he takes this style of cinematography to another level.
The film follows a pair of young British soldiers named Schofield and Blake, whom have been tasked with carrying a message through miles of war-torn France—known in the film as “No Man’s Land”—to another battalion of soldiers. The message is a warning, a warning that the attack the aforementioned battalion are to carry out is a trap; one that if not received, could lead to the deaths of thousands of British soldiers, including Blake’s older brother.
The film does a fine job of forcing the audience to live-out the experience of being in the midst of a war, as if you’re not an audience member at all but rather a boot-on-the-ground during WWI. It does this in a number of ways: through the fact the camera continuously follows these young men through trenches and battlefields, coupled with amazing visuals and realistic sound effects— like every round fired from a weapon, explosion of a grenade, and plane roaring in a dogfight—to finally the emotion and empathy the film is able to draw from the audience as the plot progresses.
The film plunges its viewers into the boots of a soldier during The Great War. It forces each audience member to experience what a soldier during WWI might experience in the heat of battle: brotherhood, shell-shock, fear, loss, death, victory and a desperate fight for survival.
Unlike many fictitious war movies, this film doesn’t serve to provide the audience with entertaining action scenes or gunfights between skilled warriors on different sides. Instead, this film provides its audience with nearly two hours of a soldier’s desperate struggle to survive, and at the same time carry out their duty after having been given an impossible mission; a mission where thousands of lives hang in the balance.
War-thriller fan or not, “1917” is sure to keep you entertained and on the edge-of-your seat. Prepare for a film that throws you into the middle of a battlefield on a realistic, emotional journey into the heat-of-battle during WWI.
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