Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty (1999), Jarhead (2005), Skyfall (2012) and many more), 1917 stars George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, with appearances by Colin Firth, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch. The story is simple enough—two British soldiers in WWI France must deliver a message to a Colonel MacKenzie, who cannot otherwise be informed that he's about to send his troops to their certain deaths in a well-planned ambush.
It's a film that jacks up your heart rate. It's received ten nominations for this year's Academy Awards. It won two Golden Globes, for Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Best Director. It has a good chance of beating Parasite and winning Best Picture at the Oscars.
Should it? I don't know. I can't figure out how the Academy reaches decisions. I would, however, bet a thousand bucks that 1917 takes the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
The cinematographic style reminded me of Children of Men (2006), directed by Alfonso Cuarón with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and also of The Revenant (2015) and Birdman (2014) (both directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu with, again, cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki). Mexicans all three, interestingly. And Lubezki has won the Oscar for best cinematography three times in a row, for Gravity (2013), Birdman, and The Revenant.
Roger Deakins (cinematographer for No Country for Old Men (2017) and Sicario (2015)) was at the cinematographic helm for 1917, and he and Mendes take those long, fluid takes made famous by Lubezki one step further. Some of them seem to go on for whole chunks of the movie. Like the first, which follows two soldiers through a field, then through trenches jammed with other soldiers, then all the way to the German front line, and then beyond it. The filmmakers must've stitched takes together in some way that made the scene transitions appear unbroken. Is it even possible to film multiple sequences and that much action over so much distance without stopping? No, not really. Yet Mendes and Deakins make it look like they've achieved the impossible. The film is delivered as if it were a single shot. Surely one of the most immersive film experiences made.