PG Score: 8/10
1917 is a groundbreaking film. From a technical standpoint, it is an absolute masterpiece and features some of the best camerawork in cinema history. The one-shot method implemented by Director Sam Mendes (Skyfall, American Beauty) elevates this spectacle to a new caliber of cinematic glory. The movie follows two British soldiers, Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay), during World War I as they are tasked with delivering a vital message deep behind enemy lines that will prevent a group of 1,600 fellow soldiers from walking directly into a trap. Among the group of allies is Blake’s own brother. The biggest draw of 1917 is the one-shot technique. This bold filmmaking feat catapults it to an entirely different level of success. It also distinguishes itself from other war movies from a technical perspective. To call it immersive would be a massive understatement. However cliché it may sound, the fact is that the one continuous shot truly makes the viewer feel like a third solider accompanying Blake and Schofield on their harrowing journey. Through each pitch-black tunnel, around each bend of a trench, over each corpse of a fallen comrade, the camera follows. The effect is utterly awe-inspiring. It’s a visual feast and it becomes apparent very quickly that this has never been done before, not on this scale at least. This is onscreen history being made and is a marvel to witness. The two main characters are quite young and are understandably terrified throughout their mission. This fear is conveyed effectively by MacKay in a very convincing lead performance. He does an impressive job of communicating onscreen the sheer hell that his character is experiencing. Unfortunately, the same acting accolades cannot be given to his counterpart. Dean-Charles Chapman is frankly a miscast and is a noticeable weak link in a film without many flaws. His performance is hollow and his emotion feels forced at times. Thankfully, his acting doesn’t take away too much from the film as a whole. Most of the two hour runtime is incredibly tense. Danger could be waiting around every corner for the two protagonists. This constant feeling of uncertainty makes for some edge-of-your-seat tension and the unease only adds to the already ever-present immersion created by the one-shot technique. 1917 genuinely feels like a theme park attraction at times. It is borderline virtual reality and creates a level of cinematic engagement rarely found in film. This is a double-edged sword. The technical triumph accomplished here distracts from and even diminishes the story and character development. The onscreen magic is so mesmerizing that it’s easy to miss various tidbits of backstory and plot points. It’s unfair to classify that as a knock against the film since it’s caused by the very thing that makes it so remarkable, but still worth noting nonetheless. While the film is virtually perfect in the technical department, it's not without flaws elsewhere. Despite the unprecedented level of captivation garnered by the one-shot method, the film has moments where it feels too slow. There isn’t a ton of action and there doesn’t need to be. However, there are times when the pacing slows to a crawl. There is something to be said for the suspense found within these pockets as the enemy could appear at any moment. Still, the lapses feel sluggish and unnecessary. The tension is ratcheted up so high throughout most of the movie, that the times when it loses momentum (however infrequent) are that much more apparent. Sam Mendes's 1917 is a technical giant that soars above the competition from a cinematography perspective. Despite the pacing issues and Chapman’s lackluster performance, its unparalleled one-shot method propel it to heights never before seen on the big screen. I highly recommend everyone check this one out in the theater.