“1917” defies odds with ambitious cinematography


Autumn Williams

A graphic displaying the Rotten Tomato critic and audience ratings for “1917.”

Will Shattuck, Staff Writer

Director Sam Mendes ambitiously takes on the reality and horror of World War I with his feature film “1917.” The expertly crafted cinematography creates the illusion of one continuous take, redefining the standards for both war adaptations and one-shot movies. 

The film opens on two young soldiers by the names of Blake, Dean-Charles Chapman, and Schofield, George MacKay, inside the British trenches  in the Western Front of France. Aerial surveillance alerted their captain of the German army’s strategic retreat to the Hindenburg Line to attack a British battalion. In order to relay the message to General Mackenzie, Benedict Cumberbatch, that he needs to call off the attack, the two transverse through no-man’s land: a harrowing wasteland in between enemy lines. The journey begins, and the two soldiers quickly realize that they are a long way from their destination. 

War movies tend to have trite scenes where the antagonist is powering through their obstacles to reach a goal. To avoid this, every step of the soldiers’ journey is cataloged with technique in “1917.” The struggle of the main characters is very personal and up-close, which in turn gives the viewer a brutal perspective of World War I and of those involved. 

Another common feature of war movies is the wide landscape shot of the battlefield. While these are usually impressive and often times bring home awards for “Best Picture,” “1917” takes it a step further. Many of the landscape shots throughout the movie are accompanied by moving elements that bring it to life. This includes a scene where large artillery shells fly over a destroyed city, making shadows appear and disappear rhythmically to set an eerie yet elegant tone. 

During the 92nd Academy Awards, the film was nominated for 10 awards and won three of them, including Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound Mixing.

“1917” is a cinematic masterpiece that sets the bar much higher for all movies in terms of filming style. Both its fast-paced and excruciatingly slow scenes contribute to an adrenaline-pumping experience for all viewers.