1917 Review

Sam Mendes’s one shot war film is one of the greatest movie experiences of all time.

One Shot Kill 

1917 is a technical masterpiece that manages to present an engaging World War I story while never losing sight of its intensity. It seamlessly weaves together moments of tension, emotion, and heroism all within its 2 hour run time without taking you out of the experience. Using superb film making and camera work to bring you into the trenches and battles, 1917 is an amazing war film that will be remembered for years to come. 

During World War I, two British soldiers must cross over into enemy territory and deliver a message to their troops before they walk into a trap. They must cross through enemy lines and push through to save over 1,600 men and avert a terrible tragedy. 

From the moment the film begins, you can feel the urgency and intensity of their mission and that is achieved due to the excellent camera work and cinematography. If you haven’t heard yet, 1917 is filmed and presented to look like it was all one shot with no camera cuts and alternate angles provided. This is such an impressive feat of film making to accomplish! All thought there are one or two times where you feel that the film takes a cut, it is amazing how seamless the movie transitions from one area to the next. 

The camera follows our characters through many different environments including the trenches, mines, farms, ruins, and forests with almost minimal cuts. This makes the film feel more urgent and heart stopping because it feels as if we are actually there with these characters. The one shot technique truly engrosses you in the experience and encapsulates the feeling of what it may truly feel like to be at war. 

The film also does a great job and showing the true peril of war and bringing you in on the emotions. You feel as if the characters never have a moment to breathe and that something is always going to go wrong on their journey. You are constantly holding your breath, scared, anxious, and frightened as to what happens next that when it does happen you are either sighing a small bit of relief, or ramping up in intensity for the characters to get to their next destination. That kind of attachment is rarely seen in movies today, but it is all enhanced here in 1917 again due to the one shot experience. 

The movie is not just an all out war experience with tension and action at every turn, it also isn’t afraid to have a quieter somber moment to show how the characters are feeling. When the characters are tense, you are tense, when they are scared, you scared, when they feel defeated and have lost hope, you feel that same weight on your soldiers. Having these quieter moments dispersed throughout the film allows the movie to breathe but also keep you wrapped up in the larger conflict at hand. 

And speaking of the action, the one shot experience enhances every battle and gunshot to a new level of cinema. There is a sequence where a character is just running through some ruins constantly taking gunfire from surrounding enemies, and you feel that at any moment he could be hit and die in that instant. It’s something that is so visceral and raw that it begs to be experienced in the theater with full surround sound and a huge screen. 

On the character side of things, the film has given us two great protagonists to follow throughout the journey. One character has his brother on the front lines of the mission they are trying to avert which adds to the urgency of their mission from the familial side. The other character we don’t learn too much about, but he is able to portray quieter and more emotional moments when the movie goes in that direction. Similar to Dunkirk, this isn’t so much of a character movie than it is a technical film making experience to marvel at. While the character development does hurt the movie, it didn’t detract from the overall experience. 

1917 is a true technical filmmaker achievement and deserves numerous praises for not only its superb camera work, but it’s investing narrative as well. The mission is simple yet urgent, and constantly following these characters from each new location allows the tension to elevate in a new cinematic experience. While the character development isn’t the most fleshed out, it doesn’t take away from the larger conflict at hand. This is a film that needs to be seen in theaters and is quite possibly one of the greatest war movies of all times. I highly recommend you watch this movie as soon as possible!

(A) Intense

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