Movie Review: 1917

Release Date: December 25, 2019
Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, with Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Written By: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
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Sam Mendes, the Oscar®-winning director of Skyfall, Spectre and American Beauty, brings his singular vision to his World War I epic, 1917.

At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic’s George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them. 1917 is directed by Sam Mendes, who wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Showtime’s Penny Dreadful). The film is produced by Mendes and Pippa Harris (co-executive producer, Revolutionary Road; executive producer, Away We Go) for their Neal Street Productions, Jayne-Ann Tenggren (co-producer, The Rhythm Section; associate producer, Spectre), Callum McDougall (executive producer, Mary Poppins Returns, Skyfall) and Brian Oliver (executive producer, Rocketman; Black Swan).

The film is produced by Neal Street Productions for DreamWorks Pictures in association with New Republic Pictures. Universal Pictures will release the film domestically in limited release on December 25, 2019 and wide on January 10, 2020. Universal and Amblin Partners will distribute the film internationally, with eOne distributing on behalf of Amblin in the U.K.

At the end of 1917, there is a dedication to Sam Mendes’ grandfather, Alfred H. Mendes, who served in WWI.  1917 is a work of fiction, but that fiction was based on the stories of Grandfather Alfred’s harrowing tales on warfare.  1917 is both intimate in its story-telling and broad in its scope.  It really is something to behold.  A great movie, it every sense.

The casting of fresh-faced George MacKay (as Schofield) and Dean-Charles Chapman (as Blake) as the leads worked very well.  While the film was peppered with strong cameos from Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Richard Madden, and Benedict Cumberbatch, 1917 was, in every regard, a two-man endeavor. As the young, war-tired soldiers were given an impossible task, they wonderfully conveyed a torrent of emotions. The feeling of awe especially permeated the soldiers’ way of approaching their task at hand.  The story makes it clear that both soldiers had seen war for some time, but their latest mission was different.  It was more dangerous and more insurmountable.  So, when the Schofield and Blake met any goal, it was as if they were sincerely surprised that they had made it that far. 

And, even with a setting as expansive as the European Western Front during WWI, the story still felt very personal.  The camera work served to make the audience the third soldier on the mission.  The cameras were either tightly behind the duo or in front of them, seeming to appear as one, continuous shot. Because the audience could see no more than Schofield and Blake’s viewpoint, there was a high degree of suspense.  The audience didn’t know what waited around corners until Schofield and Blake arrived.  Using the duo’s point of view, the European countryside appeared majestic. It looked beautiful on the big screen. 

The run time flew by for 1917. The story was so engrossing and the visuals so engaging that the movie could easily gone on for two additional hours with no complaints. The movie had gut wrenching war scenes, so it’s not exactly for the whole family, but it is still one of the best of the year. 1917 opens for Christmas. Make sure to catch it. 

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