You don’t need to like war movies to enjoy 1917. While it lacks the star power of other war epics, it makes up for it in technical wizardry and total immersion. Director Sam Mendes did something completely different here and I’m still not sure how he did it. Watching 1917 is like watching street magic – where you can stare at the magician’s hands and he still manages to fool you.
I’m not really a fan of War Movies.
I mean…I love the classics like Full Metal jacket and Apocalypse Now, but I was never one to go in a theater to watch a war movie. Didn’t go to see the greats like Saving Private Ryan, didn’t go to see Hacksaw Ridge or Dunkirk, etc…
But my curiosity got the best of me because I kept hearing about the brilliance of Sam Mendes’ directing, so I said “sure, lets see what the hype is all about”.
Sam Mendes is best known for directing ‘SkyFall‘ – widely considered one of the best James Bond movies of the entire series. Skyfall is dope af…and It’s no mistake that Skyfall is the highest grossing of all Bond films. So Mendes is That Dude.
His skills are apparent on 1917, and really the cinematography is the STAR of the show.
1917 opens with two soldiers, seemingly napping without a care in the world in a field of daisies. But then the camera slowly pulls back to reveal the TRUTH of the situation. We are sitting in the middle of British Allied forces against the Germans. Wasting no time, these two young soldiers are given a ridiculously impossible mission (cross enemy lines and deliver a message ASAP). From there the movie swings into nonstop war thrill ride.
The gimmick is this: The entire movie is filmed as one long, continuous shot.
I’ll say it again…
This movie is one long, single-camera shot from START to FINISH! :O
Visually it looks like it was filmed by a war correspondent. A constant cameraman, capturing our soldiers every angle and every movement, up close and personal. You’ll swear that you are paying close attention – but the camera SOMEHOW crawls into places that seem…impossible. From lush open fields, to battlegrounds littered with bodies, all the way down into the claustrophobic trenches and darkened tunnels – the camera is THERE at all times, without cutaways, without any fadeouts or edits.
A few times I was asking myself ‘Wait…How TF did they film that… like THAT??’
And THAT is the major draw of 1917.
Visually, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. No edits. No takes. Whatever camera wizardry Sam Mendes used it’s a new step in film technique. A step forward in filmmaking similar to ‘bullet time’ with The Matrix. Whether it was advanced camera-tracking, or a body cam… or camera drones? Stunt Cameramen?? – I have no idea, but this movie does an insane 360 degree single-camera take throughout the entire 2 hours.
While this all might sound like a bunch of “So what?” – I can tell you this…THIS ISN”T NORMAL lol. And you’ll need to SEE it to appreciate it. Like watching a street magician up close, staring at his hands the entire time… and STILL not understanding how the trick is done. That is the beauty of 1917 🙂
OVERALL….1917 is a pure war movie that stays TRUE to the reality of war. It is a powerful, straightforward narrative with strong acting and Technical Wizardry. Some people might find it hard to understand the language (British soldiers), but really the Movie photography itself is the main attraction.
There are no superhuman heroics. This is not a Feel-Good story with an overarching morality tale. It doesn’t have a clean-cut Hollywood ending. Hell, its lacks any star power at all (Save a few random cameos). Nope. 1917 simply exists for what it is. We the viewers are dropped smack in the middle of a terrifying situation, having a front row seat to chaos. The entire movie is just our two soldiers on their nonstop trek into enemy territory carrying out their orders. As an Army veteran myself who has been in combat duty, I can appreciate that.
Should you watch it?
Yes. No. MAYBE?
While it is visually stunning, aside from the technical marvel it’s just one of many war movies. It lacks that monumental WOW moment. There are more entertaining stories (Private Ryan), darker themes (Full Metal Jacket), and soaring feel-good heroics (Hacksaw Ridge). 1917 is absolutely a fully immersive experience that you should watch, eventually. Redbox or Streaming in widescreen format, preferably with surround sound. It deserves better than a smartphone.
(out of 5 WWI helmets)