British soldiers Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are taking a well earned rest in a peaceful French field when they are summoned to a meeting down in the trenches with General Erinmore (Colin Firth). Having believed that the Germans had retreated, and were now on the run, the General has now learned that they are in fact armed to the teeth and lying in wait for the unsuspecting battalion of 1600 Brits who are preparing to advance on them. Unfortunately, that battalion is quite a distance across country, and with telephone lines currently out of action, Blake and Schofield have been tasked by the General with delivering the message to call off the attack. And the reason for choosing Blake? His brother is one of the 1600 likely to meet their death if the message isn’t received before they attack the following morning.
The big talking point surrounding 1917 has been the ‘single shot’ effect that it uses in order to tell its story. We effectively follow Blake and Schofield in real time as they undertake their mission, with only a single camera shot tracking them, and only noticeably cutting away just once. The result is outstanding, delivering a seamless and fully immersive experience unlike anything you’ve experienced before, outside of a first person shooter video game.
Late last year, a short behind the scenes video for 1917 was released, showing how they’d used cameras hanging from wires, which were then passed to guys on foot, then to guys on vehicles, back and forth in order to achieve the effect. The result is that the camera glides effortlessly around the soldiers in the trenches and on the battlefields, through barbed wire and across bodies of water filled with rotting corpses. You feel the tension and all of the emotion right there, right alongside the soldiers who are experiencing it. It’s a truly amazing technical achievement.
Their journey takes them across no mans land, across the war-torn countryside, avoiding danger and all other obstacles in their way. And it’s edge of seat stuff, aided by an amazing heart pumping score and that incredible camera work. Hats off to George Mackay as Schofield too, who carries the majority of the movie and is really put through the wringer.
1917 has already earned itself a Golden Globe, and nine BAFTA nominations, just this last week alone. And it deserves it all. Bold, ambitious storytelling, and an early contender for this years best movie.