Unforgettable and Breathtaking
Most of the talk about the new Sam Mendes- directed film 1917 has been about cinematographer Roger Deakins’ camera work. People swear the film was shot all in one take, but it really wasn’t. The longest scene is about 8 or 9 minutes in length. It was Deakins’ wizardry with the camera that made the film the talk of Hollywood because of the way he stitched the scenes together in a seamless way. Deakins revealed in a recent interview with journalist Carolyn Giardina in “The Hollywood Reporter” that he didn’t want to draw attention to the camera itself. “You don’t really feel the change in technique, and that was key, really, because you didn’t want the camera to be a character.”
In the beginning sequences, it seems there is one unbroken take of the scene. What really transpired involved months of rehearsals to create the special blocking that gave the illusion of one long take. It is amazing and thrilling to watch. The audience will hold its breath, waiting for a change that never happens. And that is why Roger Deakins has been nominated for an Academy Award ® a total of 14 times and has won his Oscar® for Blade Runner 2049 in 2017.
Aside from the dazzling color camera work of Deakins, the story itself is intriguing, and the film never lags or sags in the middle because the action and tension never stop, thanks to Mendes’ skillful directing and writing (with Krysty Wilson-Cairns). The plot is simple but never boring.
Two young British soldiers are given a dangerous and what seems to be, on every level, an impossible mission. They are to take a hand-delivered message through enemy territory to their own troops that are about to launch a disastrous campaign. The enemy Germans are about to lure them into a death trap. If the boys deliver the message on time, the slaughter will be avoided.
Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) are given the task to find their way across “No Man’s Land” through falling bombs and being strafed by gunfire. Their task is not easy by any means. Several disasters befall them along the way, so that every scene keeps the audience spellbound as no-one knows when the next calamity will strike.
One beautifully lighted night scene is sure to catch your attention. As MacKay stumbles through a bombed-out town, the haunted jagged buildings are lighted by the bombs and gunfire exploding all around him, giving the scene an eerie, yet beautiful, visual. Kudos to the lighting people for creating this memorable illusion.
This is not your usual war picture, per se. There is no John Wayne. It’s about the brave men who fought during World War I with such primitive tools at their disposal. But it is a darned good story and a terrific film that should be seen by everyone. War is hell, and that aspect never changes with time. Still, 1917 comes across as unforgettable and breathtaking.
(Released by Universal Pictures/ Amblin Partners/ DreamWorks and rated “R” for violence, some disturbing images, and language.)