Director: Sam Mendes
1917 was a wonderful movie that captured many different aspects of World War I.
What Happens in 1917?
Set in April 1917, 1917 follows the journey of two soldiers during World War I: battle-hardened Lance Corporal Schofield and optimistic Lance Corporal Blake. These two men are tasked with an impossible task; they are to deliver orders to troops deep in enemy territory. Not only do they have to trek through enemy-occupied territory, but they also have to deliver these orders before the attack at dawn.
Learning this news, Blake is anxious to begin the mission right away, knowing that his brother is a part of that attacking squad. Schofield tries to convince Blake to begin at night, knowing that they can sneak through enemy lines under the guise of darkness. Eventually, due to Blake’s stubbornness, the two begin the mission right away. On their journey, they encounter traps and gunfights, losses and victories, and friendship and trust.
Who Are The Characters in 1917?
William Schofield is a Lance Corporal in the British army who has seen the brutality of war and has since been scarred. Schofield has seen enough of war that he no longer cares for medals of valour and things like that nor does he feel comfortable at his own home. Of the two protagonists, he is the more level-headed realist who thinks ahead before making decisions.
Thomas Blake is also a Lance Corporal in the army and he seems younger than Schofield but also less pessimistic and more hopeful than his counterpart. Blake still has hope that the war will soon be over and he believes in the army, his duty and perhaps being brave enough to receive a medal.
This is a war movie unlike any I have seen before for many reasons but the biggest is how it is filmed. Firstly, this is one of few war films to focus on the first world war as opposed to World War 2 or other wars. What makes that fascinating is that World War 1 was a trench war with most of the war being fought in the trenches and on no man’s land which is less cinematic but this movie found a way to make it very compelling.
Now this movie’s big selling point is its cinematography and how it was filmed to look as if it was one continuous shot. Through many different techniques, the film moves continuously and the camera is always in front or behind our protagonists so we don’t see anything the characters do not, there is no cutting to a different soldier to see the progress on the front lines, no cutting to the pilots above as they look down on our heroes.
This is a simple and contained story about two soldiers trying to warn another company about a trap and it is filmed as such. The way it was filmed just adds to the intensity, as the audience is closer to the characters, we feel the danger a lot more which works for this kind of movie.
The film doesn’t shy away from the brutality of war although it is not particularly battle-heavy as we do not even see our protagonists use their guns until an hour in. At the same time, we feel the war going on around us and how important the mission our characters are on is to save many lives.
The movie does show the impact of war quite well with many destroyed towns and houses as well as many gruesome-looking soldiers who died fighting. The story, as I said, is not very grand but the premise of two soldiers going to warn a battalion that they are walking into a trap but our characters have to move on foot through many treacherous terrains to reach their destination is quite entertaining and will keep you engaged.
The characters of Schofield (as played by George MacKay) and Blake (as played by Dean-Charles Chapman) are not the deepest or most developed characters ever but they are interesting enough that you want to follow them and they add the feel of humanity and stakes that you will care for them and anything that may happen to them. World War 1 was awful and so many men and civilians died throughout but this movie shows the story of two men trying to save lives while doing their duty to their country in a well-crafted story.
All in all, a fantastic film that shows truly how brave the men who fought in that war were and has masterclass filmmaking throughout.