Last night I had the opportunity to watch Sam Mendes’ new World War 1 epic 1917 in the Odeon Leicester Square Dolby Screen which was followed by a Q&A with Mendes as well as the two leads George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman.
I’ve held an Odeon Limitless card for over a year now and last year I managed to get to the cinema 31 times, so far I’ve been 5 times in 2020 and we’re only ten days into the year. What this means is that for £19.99 a month I can watch an unlimited amount of films in any of the Odeon cinemas, which meant that the screening I went to cost me nothing instead of the £35 a regular ticket cost. Bargain!
The Odeon Dolby Screen is my favourite place to watch films in London as the sound is just unbelievable and so is the screen, although I do always wish the screen was a little bigger. However, this doesn’t take away from the incredible experience of watching films here.
This is the only film you have to watch this year. YUP. it’s THAT good.
1917 is a fictional story about two soldiers who have been given a message to deliver to a general 9 miles away. The crux is they only have a few hours to deliver it before the general will lead two battalions into a strong German attack and a guaranteed death.
What is so great about this film is the technique. It’s made to look as if it doesn’t have any cuts and with up to 8 minute long scenes smoothly merged together seamlessly, it takes us through the journey with the two men as if it was in real-time.
Not only is this a terrific and challenging way to create a film it also allows the actors to truly act. Every take has to be perfect from the camera crew to actors props and every single crew member. One step in the wrong direction or a prop failure and the shot had to be redone.
Where the “cuts” were merged together was so seamless and at times unnoticeable but when it was noticeable it was done in such an astonishing way. Whether it be stepping into darkness, explosions or falling unconscious the cuts are seamless.
It’s an awe-striking piece of film with sweeping landscapes, emotionally draining scenes and action-packed fight scenes which makes it one of the best pieces of cinema of recent years.
1917 picks up a piece of history, that is often left in the shadows in the industry, and it brings it out of the trenches to tell a beautiful story of a journey of heroism and bravery through one of the most gruesome scenes of war.
Where many World War films lack in diversity 1917 allows for a truer depiction of the diversity of the British forces. We meet a Sikh soldier in traditional garments and multiple black men are part of the first and second line of attack. It’s a nice touch and important homage to the many different ethnicities that fought for the Allies and in such a giant of a film that this is it’s a true statement.
With it’s challenging yet artistic mode of filmmaking, an incredible cast led by George MacKay, the incredible landscapes and a story which in itself makes for a great film 1917 is the film to watch this year if you only had the opportunity to watch ONE film.
As soon as the credits had rolled and the applause and settled Sam, George and Dean arrived on stage to another round of applause. Then the Q&A commenced which was such a cool experience!
They first talked about the fantastic screen and sound of the Dolby stage and Sam commented on how expensive the projector in the screen is – about $1 million! He then went on to discuss the pressure of wearing multiple hats in this production.
Mendes didn’t only direct and produce he also co-wrote it with Krysty Wilson-Cairns which meant that he was often to “blame” for anything that didn’t sit right come day of shooting. There was also a lot of pressure to get it right on the day as there was no margin of error that could be fixed in editing as it is a film without cuts.
The creative idea behind the one-shot feel was to give the audience an emotional journey where they have to stick with the men at all times. There was no cutting away from hard times and as it was a film in “real-time” it also made for an incredible cinematic feel. As Mendes puts it’s “a dance, choreography, of the camera and the boys” as well as the landscape which is such an incredibly living character and part of the film.
Mendes talked a lot about the landscape and that where the characters walked is where they built the scenery, including the one mile of trenches that were built for the film. The most incredible of all scenes takes place in a demolished town during the night which is beautifully lit by flares and a church on fire. Mendes explained how the flares were attached to wires to have the right trajectory and that the church was lit with hundreds of lights with only the fire being added on in post-production.