Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch
Genre: War, Drama, Action, Thriller
Release Date: 17 January, 2020
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Two young British privates during the First World War are given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, and one of the soldier’s brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap.
1917 is an upcoming war film directed by Sam Mendes and co-written by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns. It stars George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, with Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The film is based in part on an account told to Mendes by his paternal grandfather, Alfred Mendes, and is scheduled to be released on 17 January, 2020, by Universal Pictures.
At the height of the First World War during Spring 1917 in northern France, two young British soldiers, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are given a seemingly impossible mission to deliver a message which will warn of an ambush during one of the skirmishes soon after the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich. The two recruits race against time, crossing enemy territory to deliver the warning and keep a British battalion of 1,600 men, which includes Blake’s own brother, from walking into a deadly trap. The pair must give their all to accomplish their mission by surviving the war to end all wars.
Amblin Partners and New Republic Pictures were announced to have acquired the project, which will be set in World War I, with Sam Mendes directing and writing the screenplay alongside Krysty Wilson-Cairns. The story is based around a “fragment” Alfred Mendes had told to his grandson, the director of 1917, Sam Mendes. In August 2019, Mendes was quoted as saying “It’s the story of a messenger who has a message to carry. And that’s all I can say. It lodged with me as a child, this story or this fragment, and obviously I’ve enlarged it significantly. But it has that at its core.”
Tom Holland was reported to be in talks for the film in September 2018, and in October, Roger Deakins was reported to be reuniting with Mendes to serve as cinematographer on the film. George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman entered negotiations to star in the film that same month. Thomas Newman was hired to compose the score for the film in March 2019. That same month, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Richard Madden, Andrew Scott, Daniel Mays, Adrian Scarborough, Jamie Parker, Nabhaan Rizwan and Claire Duburcq joined the cast of the film.
Filming began on April 1, 2019, and continued through June 2019 in Wiltshire, Hankley Common and Govan, Scotland, as well as Shepperton Studios. Concern was raised over the planned filming on Salisbury Plain by conservationists who felt the production could disturb potentially undiscovered remains in the area, requesting a survey be conducted before any construction for sets begin on the land.
Sections of the film were also shot in and around Low Force, on the River Tees, Teesdale in June 2019. The production staff had to install signs warning walkers in the area not be alarmed by the bodies strewn around the site as they were prosthetic.
Filming was accomplished with long takes and elaborately choreographed moving camera shots to give the effect of one continuous take.
It is scheduled for limited release on December 25, 2019 and wide release on January 17, 2020.
1917 Movie Trailer:
#1917 – In Theaters December (Behind The Scenes Featurette)
1917 Movie Synopsis:
Sam Mendes, the Oscar®-winning director of Skyfall, Spectre and American Beauty, brings his singular vision to his World War I epic, 1917.
At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic’s George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.
1917 is directed by Sam Mendes, who wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Showtime’s Penny Dreadful). The film is produced by Mendes and Pippa Harris (co-executive producer, Revolutionary Road; executive producer, Away We Go) for their Neal Street Productions, Jayne-Ann Tenggren (co-producer, The Rhythm Section; associate producer, Spectre), Callum McDougall (executive producer, Mary Poppins Returns, Skyfall) and Brian Oliver (executive producer, Rocketman; Black Swan).
The film is produced by Neal Street Productions for DreamWorks Pictures in association with New Republic Pictures. Universal Pictures will release the film domestically in limited release on December 25, 2019 and wide on January 10, 2020. Universal and Amblin Partners will distribute the film internationally, with eOne distributing on behalf of Amblin in the U.K.
1917 Movie Review:
No amount of positive press, including this review, will further 1917’s chances at the Oscars more than a behind-the-scenes clip currently spreading like wildfire on social media. It juxtaposes set footage with the final scene from the film, side-by-side for viewers to fully appreciate sheer scale of director Sam Mendes’ vision.
We see the young actor George MacKay emerge from a trench and sprint across a battlefield, as hundreds of soldiers charge directly at the enemy. He falls several times, but with a single-minded devotion to his duty, picks himself up and continues running, directly towards the camera, and us.
Mendes’ co-writer, Krysty Wilson-Cairns wrote on Twitter that when the scene was being filmed, the crew gasped when MacKay fell the first time — it wasn’t scripted — but the actor’s split second decision to get up and continue the shot created ‘movie magic’.
She’s quite right. The scene is among the finest stretches of action you’re ever likely to see – this year or any other year. It is the crescendo at the end of an epic opera, the zenith of a cinematic peak that I have no idea how Mendes conquered. 1917 is filled with moments of such wonder that I often found myself sitting back in awe, both transfixed by the bombast and somewhat surprisingly, moved by the moments of quiet introspection.
There was another tweet I read recently, in which someone had offered theory as to why female filmmakers are routinely overlooked for awards. They said that while male directors couldn’t help but show off — just this year, Martin Scorsese has dabbled in digital de-ageing and Quentin Tarantino has lovingly recreated period Hollywood on practical sets – the women are more likely to let the stories do the heavy lifting, thereby diverting attention from themselves instead of attracting it. If you consider some of the best films directed by women this year — The Farewell, Booksmart, Gully Boy — you’d have to agree with this theory.
And Mendes most certainly isn’t helping. While he’s never been one to show off (besides that opening shot in Spectre), he appears to be concentrating on little else in 1917 than pulling off an incredible technical feat — the illusion of a single, unbroken shot. Reuniting with his regular cinematographer, the legendary Roger Deakins, Mendes seems to be building on the foundation laid by Alfonso Cuaron in Gravity, and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu in Birdman and The Revenant. Each of these three films won their directors Academy Awards, and barring an upset, Mendes will likely pip favorites Martin Scorsese and Bong Joon-ho for the honour at this year’s ceremony.
We open on a rather placid note. Two young soldiers are awoken from their nap and instructed to meet their General (Colin Firth). He informs them that the Germans have feigned a retreat and are preparing an ambush on more than 1500 British troops, who’ve interpreted the fallback as a signal to attack. The young soldiers must travel across enemy lines, brave the elements, and deliver a message to the commander of the 1500-strong battalion (Benedict Cumberbatch), instructing him to call off their assault. The film is structured almost like a video game; mission-oriented, with thinly sketched characters who run into ‘bosses’ after every ‘level’ they complete.
I can only imagine the effect 1917 will have on audiences that aren’t familiar with the techniques Mendes and Deakins are about to unleash upon them. As you watch Lance Corporals Schofield and Blake embark upon their quest, the camera glides through cramped trenches, hovers over bogs of water littered with dead bodies, and floats across expansive fields. In moments of tension, it tiptoes towards the young actors’ faces, and sneaks in for close-ups; in epic action sequences like the one being shared in the viral clip I spoke about earlier, it races across ravaged landscapes. One moment in particular, which involves a distant aerial dog-fight, will make you recoil in your seat. Another, lit entirely by flares will single-handedly win Deakins his second Oscar.
But what Deakins’ camera never, ever does, is stray too far from our two protagonists. 1917 wouldn’t have worked as well as it does had Schofield and Blake not been decent men. On their journey, they come across several soldiers (including a Sikh sepoy) — each of them more cynical than the last. Lance Corporal Schofield was chosen for the mission quite randomly — a twist of fate that Mendes perhaps intends as a deliberate mirror to the arbitrary manner in which governments send men to war — but towards the end, he transforms from a reluctant hero to a man who represents the bravery of the millions of soldiers who died in World War 1; an entire generation lost.
Amid all the visual razzle-dazzle, 1917 somehow finds the time to make grand humanist statements about war. It isn’t so much interested in the politics of warfare, but like Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, is more concerned with transporting audiences to the battlefield, so that next time, they have the good sense to not invoke ‘Siachen ke jawaan’ in their petty arguments.