Review: 1917

A powerful visual and narrative experience

Through the magic of carefully planned shots and masterful editing, “1917” was one of 2019’s best films. Following an awards’ season limited release in December, it’s now playing at a theater near you. This movie is one to watch on a big screen. Beyond the novelty of experiencing what appears to be one continuous feature-length shot, there’s a rich, dramatic narrative underlying it all.

Directed by Sam Mendes (see “Skyfall” and “American Beauty”), this World War I set picture has two young British soldiers assigned an impossible mission. The film’s protagonists, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), must deliver a vital message behind enemy lines. And if they fail, 1600 men will die. For Blake, it’s personal, because his brother, Lieutenant Joseph Blake (“Bodyguard’s” hunky Richard Madden), is in the direct line of fire.

Much of the focus of this one has been on Mendes’ collaboration with Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (“Blade Runner 2049”). The visual goal is to make the film appear to have been shot in one single take. Even though the result leads a viewer to believe that the camera was continuously running while the action progressed, there were cuts. Through skillful work, you can’t exactly see the edits.

Read the rest of Jonathan’s review online and in print in the Times-Herald:

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