Sam Mendes' 1917 Has Been Called 'The Best War Film Since Saving Private Ryan'

26 November 2019
Culture, Film, 1917, Sam Mendes, Andrew Scott, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, Colin Firth
Image: Universal Pictures

A dose of British stiff upper-lip that's already being hailed as an Oscar contender

Pip pip and tally-ho, old chums. Once again, a British war movie is coming to the screen and once again, it's filled with a whole lot of British derring-do.

Thankfully though, for people who are maybe a little tired of wide-ranging war films like Dunkirk and the spectacle that Roland Emmerich's Midway is also promising, 1917 — which is coming to life care of Skyfall and American Beauty director Sam Mendes — takes a more human, almost Saving Private Ryan-esque human approach to a war that shocked the world so much with its brutality.

1917 will follow the stories of Schofield (The Kelly Gang's George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman, AKA Tommen Baratheon from GoT), two young recruits sent off on a daring, behind enemy lines mission to deliver an order to Schofield's brother's battalion before it's led into a catastrophic battle.

The cast also gets its fair share of well-established British icons in Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Colin Firth as a mustachio'd commander, and Richard Madden.

This makes for an extremely intriguing premise, particularly as World War I is still a conflict that hasn't been as heavily touched on in feature films as its successor. But does Mendes's presentation of the war really reflect what the soldiers went through?

It's as stylishly shot as Nolan's Dunkirk, as many people are pointing out in the trailer's comment section on YouTube, but Dunkirk was able to get away with it as it dealt largely with a group of soldiers staying in the same place. Mendes seems to have brought the same level of sheen to a story that should be more brutal and gritty. Still, it's only a trailer, so time will tell.

The film has enlisted renowned DOP Roger Deakins, who's apparently filmed the entire thing to look like one continuous shot (probably with some very subtle, clever cuts for time). If this is the case, and he brings anything like the quality he's brought to projects like Blade Runner: 2047, Sicario, and True Grit, the result should be absolutely stunning. 

And according to initial reports, it is. The film had its first preview screenings in the UK over the past couple of days, with critics instantly hailing it one of the best war films ever made. "Sam Mendes’s 1917 is an amazingly audacious film; as exciting as a heist movie, disturbing as a sci-fi nightmare," wrote Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian.

Vanity Fair's Richard lawson called it "a staggering piece of filmmaking, admirable both for its complexity and its control... It’s a movie about stopping something rather than winning it. Which, in careful complement to its prestige war-movie heft, gives 1917 a delicate, mournful air of humanity that so many other films of its kind snuff out with grandiosity." Long-time authorities Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have also lavished praise on the film, noting that it'll almost certainly go down as one of the great all-time feats of cinematography.

Clayton Davis of Awards Circuit went even further, proclaiming rather boldly on Twitter that it was an instant front runner for just about every major gong come awards season: "1917 is the best war film since SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. The cinematography of the year. The cinematography of the decade. Thomas Newman's orchestral masterpiece. Sam Mendes gift to cinema... and his family. Every ounce is powerful."

So, 'get keen' appears to be common consensus on 1917.  The film will reportedly drop in US cinemas first on Christmas Day.

Via GQ Australia