1917, rated R
1917 is a powerful and intense film set in World War I. It is loosely based on a story the director’s grandfather told him as a child (Alfred H. Mendes served as a message runner with the British Army during WWI). The film is directed by Oscar and Golden Globe winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road). Mendes wrote the film with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. The film recently won two Golden Globes: for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director for Mendes. The film also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score – Motion Picture for fourteen-time Oscar nominee Thomas Newman (American Beauty, Little Women, Finding Nemo). The film had a budget of approximately $100 million.
The film takes place in April of 1917 during Operation Alberich in northern France at the height of World War I. With radio lines down, two young British soldiers Lance Corporal Blake, played by Dean-Charles Chapman, and Lance Corporal Schofield, played by George MacKay, are given an assignment by General Erinmore, played by Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), to make a dangerous trek on foot across No Man’s Land, the area separating British and German troops, to deliver a critical message. The message is to stand down on a planned British attack on a supposedly retreating Germany army. Intelligence has suggested that the retreat by the Germans is a trap, and the planned British attack could result in the deaths of 1,600 British soldiers, including Blake’s brother. With miles of enemy territory to cross and not much time, their mission to pass the message to another company to call off the next day’s attack seems more like a suicide mission.
Will Blake and Schofield be able to reach the British troops to deliver the letter to the British Colonel in time to stop the planned attack?
Themes in the film include bravery, self-sacrifice, perseverance, death, war, and survival. Content concerns include extreme war violence and adult language. The powerful musical score by Thomas Newman is at times haunting and ominous. The way in which the movie was filmed – as a single long take that takes place in real time – by cinematographer Roger Deakins, fourteen time Oscar nominee and winner for Blade Runner 2049, makes you feel that you are walking right alongside, or behind, Blake and Schofield as they made their way through the trenches, mud, dead bodies, dead horses, through abandoned German troop locations, fields and bombed out homes and villages. You feel the intensity, uncertainty, and fear that they feel.
The film features excellent acting performances by George MacKay as Schofield and Dean-Charles Chapman as Blake. Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) appears in a small role as British Colonel MacKenzie and Mark Strong (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Imitation Game, Kingsman: The Secret Service) in a small role as Captain Smith.
1917 is a well-made, powerful and intense World War I film, that will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.