1917 Review: Hope can be Dangerous

Staff Writer: David McCallister

World War One, the war to end all wars. The horrors and missions that normal men had to see and accomplish are both extraordinary and depressing.

Director Sam Mendes captures this with his latest film 1917. 1917 revolves around two young soldiers, who are tasked with calling off an attack against German forces that is a trap for the British forces.

Very rarely are films made to look like a continuous shot, but 1917 is one of the most recent examples of this technique. The film feels like the viewer follows the characters without any breaks, and it is done incredibly well.

The film’s beautiful cinematography done by Roger Deakins helps capture this technical achievement. Using clever camera angles, while also making the film beautiful is amazing to watch and wonder whether the film was shot in one take or not. 

With the difference in shooting the film comes the intensity. 1917 creates tension from the very start. Only seeing what the character can see creates tension that makes the risk the characters take even more important to the viewer.

There are moments where the viewer is on the edge of their seat with every corner the characters take. But there are also moments where the audience knows they can breathe, which is created by the set design.

1917’s set design is meticulously crafted and executed. From the literal trenches dug for the film, to a burning town in the night sky, every set piece is well made to capture the essence of the time period and area the characters are in.

Unlike most war films, 1917 utilizes a small central cast, made up of two young soldiers, for most of the film. There are other side characters too, but they don’t contribute as much to the overall story as the protagonists. 

George MacKay gives an amazing performance as one of the central soldiers. There are moments where MacKay says nothing, but the facial expressions and emotion that Mackay evokes is impressive.

The story of 1917 is simple yet effective. Based on stories Mendes’ grandfather would tell the director when he was younger, it shows how much these soldiers had to endure for peace and victory. 

Using themes of friendship, perseverance, and leadership play key roles in the film. Watching our central characters progress from where they start to the final shot is powerful. 

War films are commonly associated with this emotion while watching it, but 1917 captures it in a different way. With how it’s shot and how the story progresses makes this World War One film feel different than other war films. 

This is also created by the wonderful soundtrack. Full of boisterous orchestral pieces, Thomas Newman gives a career best score, especially “The Night Window”.

1917 is one of the best films of last year. Filled with intensity, amazing set design, and a powerful soundtrack makes the first viewing experience one to not forget.

This is projected even more by the story and characters that surround the sad time of World War One. The overall central themes call back on the past so we as viewers can help shape our future.

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