Sam Mendes’s 1917 is a masterpiece that is destined to be one of the all time great movies ever made. Every aspect of this movie was excellent and it is no wonder that it has already garnered multiple awards and nominations ahead of the Academy Awards to which it received a total of 10 nominations including the prestigious Best Picture and Best Director awards which I for one predicts that it will easily win.
The story set in the First World War is simple enough as two young British soldiers are given a time critical and dangerous mission to deliver an important message to another regiment warning them of an impending trap. In order to reach the regiment they have to cross into enemy territory and unknown dangers. What makes the movie unique is that Sam Mendes chose to tell it in a seemingly continuous shot. This offers unbelievable challenges on how the story can progress but Sam Mendes proves he is more than capable of handling this like a master. He is no stranger to long shots as evident by the harrowing opening gambit act in the last James Bond movie which he directed, SPECTRE. Here he has upped the challenge much more by applying this technique throughout the movie’s two hours running time. The result is breathtaking and highly involving as the audience “live” through the happenings of screen in realtime as the characters are experiencing them. There is so much to absorb in every scene as the camera navigates around the characters revealing rich set details whether we are racing through the trenches, or escaping the bullets through a war torn town in the evening magically illuminated from the blares and fire from enemy fire. It is both beautiful and tragic at the same time.
As if the visual feast is not enough, the script is cleverly concise yet provide enough information to form a touching background story for our main characters and demonstrate the horrors of war that leaves the scar and change in personality by the end of the film. The music score was also perfect as it heightens the exciting moments creating an even bigger impact for the viewer. Despite the story being focus mainly on our two young British soldiers, the movie is supported by a cast of thousands as hundreds of extras provide a visual background and subtext of its own, as well as the astounding battle charge sequence towards the end. Finally the performances from its young stars is natural, believable and so strong, they prove they can stand on their own with alongside cameo appearances of some big name stars such as Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Game of Throne’s Richard Madden. Richard was not the only GOT alumni here, as viewers may recognise Dean-Charles Chapman who played Tommen Baratheon in GOT. Here, Dean-Charles seem to have don on some baby fat to his face as he plays one of the two young soldiers in the lead.
Watching this on a giant IMAX screen and pounding sound system was simply the best way one can fully appreciate this movie. It is only January but I think I have just watched the best picture for 2020 already!