1917 a Fantastic Tribute to WWI


Ainsley Maddalena, Reporter


War films are undoubtedly fantastic. They’re captivating, action packed, and sometimes contain either comedy or a love interest. Whether the film is comedic or dramatic, they both get one message across: unity. 

As kistchy as that may sound, it is true. A group of people coming together to defeat a common enemy or accomplish a task. If fiction, the film can be larger than life and momentous, touching viewers in places they didn’t know they needed to be touched in. If nonfiction, the film touches the audience deep within. It allows people to relate to a part of history. 

In 1917, English director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Skyfall) chose to capture the film in one continuous shot. Let me restate that. The film was edited to look as though it was shot in one continuous shot, not taken in one continuous shot. There have been 30 films, from 1982-2018, that have been shot in one continuous shot, worldwide. From 1948-2019, there have been 10 films that were edited to look as though they were shot in one continuous shot, worldwide. Now, you may be thinking that this isn’t such a big deal but put into perspective, it is a HUGE deal. 

On average, there are 600 movies released per year world wide. 1917 was the only one continuous shot film last year. It is up to you whether or not you find it more impressive that a film be shot in a single shot or in multiple and then edited together. According to an article on IMDb, Roger Deakins (Blade Runner, Sicario) English cinematographer and director of photography for 1917, chose to use an Arri Alexa LF digital format with many different lenses for most of the film. This camera runs anywhere from $4,000-$7,500, which is fairly inexpensive for a camera, given that cameras for shooting movies can run upwards of $80,000, however the average digital camera, say a Canon Rebel T6i,  goes for about $2,000 when all is said and done. The Arri Alexa LF digital format captures motion using three sensor modes, making it pretty high-tech. 

Now for the cast. The cast for this film is nothing short of outstanding. Dean-Charles Chapman, who is most known for his work in the critically acclaimed HBO TV series Game of Thrones as Tommen Baratheon, plays fictional Lance Corporal Blake alongside George MacKay, most known for the 2005 film The Boys are Back and the 2016 film Captain Fantastic, who plays Lance Corporal Schofield. Chapman and MacKay have an undeniable quick-wit chemistry that flourishes as the film progresses. It is a friendship of immediately but a keenness to stay human. It is obvious that Blake and Schofield did not know each other before the war but, due to their young age and opposite personalities, they became fast friends. Blake is the eager, outgoing friend who jumps at the chance to do whatever it takes to ensure his brother’s safety. Schofield is the reserved, level-headed friend who keeps Blake grounded and in-control. 

As young men in an unordinary circumstance, it is only natural to want to find humanity in a place where your own humanity has been stripped away. Mendes does a fantastic job at representing the harsh reality that is war. The film is fiction but based on true events told to him by his grandfather, Lance Corporal Alfred H. Mendes. 

So what is real and what is not? In an article by Megan Stein in Country Living, Steine notes that soldiers were used to carry messages, but only in dire circumstances, and were sent in pairs, similar to that of Blake and Schofield. Blake and Schofield are both fictional characters, as is their journey, but April 1917 is indeed real. However, in the film, April 6, 1917 is the day Blake and Schofield begin their journey to deliver the message to Colonel MacKenzie to stop MacKenzie’s battalion on attacking the Germans, crossing no man’s land where the German’s abandoned trenches lie. 

Though 1917 does not contain real people and dramatizes the events that occured in April 1917, it is just as riveting as a documentary. Mendes creates a natural environment in an unnatural situation. That being said, he does not “fluff” around anything. 1917 contains scenes that are extremely nauseating to see but that’s what makes it authentic. Mendes shows the reality of war which is why it makes it such a brilliant film. I strongly urge you to see this film, no matter what types of film you are interested in. Mendes’ ability to keep a quick pace throughout the film is not just impressive but visually pleasing in every way.