The Reel Review
This World War I saga is the riveting tale of two British soldiers ordered to embark on a harrowing journey across enemy lines in Northern France to warn another regiment (which includes the brother of one of the messengers) that they are headed into a trap. The film is based on stories co-writer/director Sam Mendes (Spectre, Skyfall) were told by his own grandfather, who served as a messenger in the war.
Mendes, alongside cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049, Sicario), seamlessly weaves the action to feel like one continuous scene, giving this Homeric odyssey an astounding sense of urgency that immerses the viewer into the action. Meticulous production design further heightens the already dizzying tension. It is incredible.
Despite its many heart-pounding moments, it is the quiet ones and in particular, the war weary facial expressions, that pack the greatest emotional impact. Just as Peter Jackson’s outstanding WWI documentary They Shall Not Grow Old will be one of the great WWI documentaries of our era, 1917 will be one of the great fictional WWI war dramas. And why on Earth is George MacKay (Captain Fantastic, Pride) not being seriously considered for a Best Actor Oscar? His career-defining performance is outstanding.
• Nearly a mile’s worth of trenches were dug for the film, which was shot in England and Scotland.
• 1917 director Sam Mendes won an Oscar for 1999’s American Beauty.
• During filming near Teesdale, England, the production staff had to erect signs warning hikers that the bodies strewn about the area were not real.