Review on the Oscar-Nominated: 1917


Photo Credit: François Duhamel

Soldiers get ready for battle. Schofield is seen looking for Colonel Mackenzie to give him the letter from his captain.

Lily Eberly, AME Editor

1917, the movie that has earned 10 nominations for the Oscars and is becoming a front runner for Best Picture, was an exquisite film illustrating a bittersweet situation during World War I.

The movie follows the events of two British soldiers, William Schofield (George MacKay) and Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), who are given a task by their captain to travel to the Second Battalion and deliver a letter to

Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch). The letter includes stopping the opposite side attack at dawn as the Germans have a plan of their own that could kill their battalion.

Tom Blake’s characteristics play into the type of person he was: helpful and brave. (Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins)

From the opening scene, the cinematography was different from most movies — in general. The scene starts with Schofield and Blake sleeping on an open field, having emphasis on where Schofield sleeps particularly against a tree. The camera remains still until the men get up and start walking, the camera focusing on them and never cutting.

Throughout the entire film, the camera fools audiences by only seeming to cut once; according to Variety, “Many of the scenes were captured in seven- or eight-minute takes and then spliced together to look as though they unfold in one shot.”

The shots were both wide and close up, always staying focused on the main subjects. There is cinematography of Blake and Schofield going around on the inside of a large trench, water consuming the middle. The camera shows the condition

of the water, along with the bodies of dead men floating on it while both soldiers were still in the frame.

Director Sam Mendes said in an interview with Vox, “I wanted to tell this story in two hours of ‘real time.’ So I felt like it was a natural thing, to lock the audience into the men’s experiences…feeling that you are going to have to live through the story with them is accentuated by not cutting.” 

Blake and Schofield draw out their guns while passing through a trench in no-man’s-land. (Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins)

1917 developed the characters subtly and earned the emotional moments for both men. Schofield was not afraid to use his gun in a time of need, whereas Blake wanted to help anyone that he could — no matter the circumstance. Both actors showed these characteristics well, really diving into how everyone is different; everyone has their own reactions and morals.

During their travel, the two soldiers come across a seemingly abandoned town with a farm. While Schofield fills his flask with cow’s milk from a bucket, some planes overhead shoot one another, causing one of the planes to crash. Blake immediately goes to help the lone pilot escape the plane which caught on fire.

Schofield ends up crossing a bridge as an enemy aims his gun at him. He hides behind a wall, standing up to shoot back without hesitation. 

The soundtrack was one of the best features to the film. Though it was subtle, the music set the mood that could have been felt by the characters without them saying how they felt. The music captured and created the emotion of the film, having the same sort of sound but with differentiating tones. The music was heroic, somber, suspenseful, smooth-going, and adventurous.

The entire plot of the movie was the bitter-sweetness of it all. The fact that real people actually experienced these things — including the other fatalities and carnage faced by other parts of the world — sets up the audience for a chilling experience. There are beautiful moments and there are heartbreaking moments. The film depicts every event that takes place very well. There is loss and gain between the two main characters.

Overall, 1917 was a war movie more than just about war. It followed the story of responsibility, trust, and duty. The events that took place — that was highlighted in the film — during this time will be further known and remembered in a victorious way. Be sure to watch not only the movie, but the Oscars to see what 1917 was nominated for — and what they may win.