6 April, 1917. Two soldiers, Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) have to deliver a message to the troops on the front line before they fall in a trap long planned by the German army. If they fail, it will be a bloodshed. And Blake‘s brother is among the soldiers unaware of the risk.
After his double take as 007 director, Sam Mendes returns with a war movie based on the memories by his grandfather Alfred, to whom is dedicated, and it is possible to feel the personal link to the subject in almost every single frame of it. It is a movie which stands in between the “historical” approach by Christopher Nolan in Dunkirk and the “commemorative” one by Spielberg in Saving Private Ryan (but luckily miles away from the pornographically violent take by Mel Gibson in Hacksaw Ridge), choosing to put the audience straight within the action thanks to the choice to film in basically a single take. Mendes inherits an old trick by Alfred Hitchcock to accomplish this task, but doing this generates an extraordinary empathy between the viewer and the action which goes far beyond the entertainment (if you can talk about entertainment when describing WW1) to hit deeply within your feelings.
MacKay and Chapman take a strong turn as the two young soldiers wandering through a no man’s land made of dead bodies (human and animal), devastation and silence while a group of notable names of British Cinema appears in quick cameos (but we want to mention Benedict Cumberbatch‘s one who, in a mere two minutes, perfectly catches the stubborn shortsightedness and addiction to war of a man). Cinematographer Roger Deakins and composer Thomas Newman, trusted collaborators of Mendes, return to give a strong contribution with their craft. Lee Smith, who won an Oscar for Dunkirk, is the editor an it is interesting to compare his different approach to work on two movies with a similar theme but a completely opposed style.
1917 won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director and it is now nominated for ten Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Original Score.