An immersive technical masterstroke impossibly (and groundbreakingly) filmed in one singular continuous shot that could change filmmaking history – stunningly ~wasted by a *shockingly*-soporific plot, opening act, and cast ensemble. 7.1/10.

Plot Synopsis: During World War I, two British soldiers — Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake — receive seemingly impossible orders. In a race against time, they must cross over into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow comrades — including Blake’s own brother.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*


Long Take (n.):

The History Books Of Filmmaking Are About To Be Rewritten

Photo Courtesy Of: Universal Pictures

Long take (n.): a shot lasting much longer than the conventional editing pace either of the film itself or of films in general. Boy, are they going to have to revise the history books & dictionary on this one. Coming off Skyfall, director Sam Mendes was in one of the most glorious and privileged positions a filmmaker could be in – with limitless potential and possibilities to expand his filmography in new, exciting ways. Then came Spectre, an unrefined 2015 Bond film wasting pedigree villain in Christoph Waltz and the best 007 to ever grace the screen in Daniel Craig – in a canvas he didn’t even need to return to helm directorally, and that rollercoaster ride dropped back to low levels; time to step away from the clacker for a few years. Now, with a new decade at his disposal, Mendes and co. are back – this time in a boldly-new direction of a World War I film that promised to be nothing like any genre predecessor before it: one single continuous two-hour long take. What the crew has achieved here is a virtuoso display of technique and filmmaking innovation that could change everything – sacrilegiously plagued by a brittle-bones script of mediocre screenwriting and journey. An immersive technical masterstroke impossibly (and groundbreakingly) filmed in one singular continuous shot that could change filmmaking history – painfully near wasted by a *shockingly*-soporific plot, weak opening act, & miscast ensemble.

The Quietest War Movie Ever Made

Grounded Human Experience & Refined Adventure Over Big Booms & Deafening Doppler Effects

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What’s most shocking about 1917 is that it antithesizes almost every other war movie out there. Mendes’ vision of WWI is more concerned on the human experience and emotion of seeing such mass extinction and loss of life over big boom and cheap grenade explosions. The film follows two British soldiers who must travel through enemy territory in a race against time to deliver a message possibly saving thousands of lives – amongst them one of the soldiers’ brothers. The decision to base such a massive canvas of war and destruction in the intimate scale of two, soon to be one person’s experience and adventure trying to complete the impossible mission gives 1917 a sort of refined ambiance and indomitability of the human spirit motif that (smartly) differentiates it from genre kin & deserves praise – as well as sets up the immersive, groundbreaking cinematographical awe to follow.

The 2-Hour Single Continuous Scene

A Groundbreaking Technical Achievement Of Virtuoso Innovation For The Ages

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The technical achievement of 1917 makes it one of the most groundbreaking films of All-Time. The ludicrousness, nay: impossibility, of making a big-scale epic blockbuster WWI film (or film in general) in one true singular continuous scene is a prospect that seems like a fairy tale or pipe dream. Yet, that’s what I’ve just witnessed: a virtuoso canvas of innovation that will go down in the history books moving the medium and possibilities of filmmaking forward in an evolutionary leap I’m struggling to remember one comparable to it; perhaps Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless or Fight Club in plot construction. The shift to digital recording over reels of 25mm film (being only ten minutes long) plus invention of new technology like Steadicam and gimbal-mounted cameras made possible such a dream, yet tools are nothing without a visionary surgeon to put them to use – and that’s what Mendes and co. have done here with quite simply the most jaw-dropping technical accomplishment in at least the last decade cinematically – that feels almost wrong to witness being so different than filmic conventions filled with rapid cuts splicing together 15th-take mediocrity and fragile egos, yet like we’re seeing something we’ll be able to tell our kids about. Cinematography usually comprises all on-screen visual elements – lighting, framing, composition, camera motion, camera angles, film selection, lens choices, depth of field, zoom, focus, color, exposure, and filtration – but this is so much more than anything dreamt of.

The Score & George MacKay

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The Score of 1917 is pretty good – filled with nimble ticking effects (that do copy a lot from Nolan’s Dunkirk), booming triumphant sequences in its big moments, and soaring orchestral melodies packed with emotion where it counts for a soundscape that dots the visual innovation aptfully. George MacKay also gives a spirited performance as Lance Cpl. Schofield – easily the biggest of his (comparatively-small potatoes) career and one that deserves massive props to stepping up to such a timeless role with great aptitude and range as he’s character-developed from wimpy complainer to man on a mission bent on carrying out the promise he made to his dead friend to save his brother and thousands of comrades through the valley of death to get there. His arc culminates in the final bombastic, classically war-picture palatial shot that cements its status in the genre – boasting some iconic moments in the exponentially-superior back-half.

Some Iconic War Film Moments In The *Exponentially*-Superior Back-Half

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The back-half of 1917 is almost a completely different film than the first half – intense, emotionally-resonant, grief-stricken, bigger-than-life, and filled with visceral action sequences that will electrify every nerve in your body and dot the landscape with some iconic cinematographical shots like the field-running long shot across a battlefield being blown up and shot through simultaneously as featured above.. skillfully juxtaposed by poignant soft ones for a canvas of magisterial filmmaking that at least ends the film phenomenally. The problem is.. the first hour of the film it takes to get there. A soporific storyline and weak script that’s FAR too uneventful and brittle to accompany a film like this assaults us more violently than the war carnage left out of the frame. The brother motivation is clichéd-beyond-belief and (never even seeing the storied ‘brother’ until the final few minutes of the film as a passing glance) a weak hook failing to stimulate even the most forgiving of moviegoers – not to mention a laughable motivation to cross the ends of the earth and do the impossible for. Also, Dean Charles-Chapman is an awful casting as supporting actor – a little too doughy-around-the-edges to be taken seriously in a macho war film and ~nobody actor (with Mackay) begging to question: they really couldn’t find ANYONE more famous and seasoned for this career-making/defining a performance.. in a film they knew would be catapulted atop decade’s lists by its technical achievements alone?!

A Soporific Storyline, Uninspired Cast Ensemble, & Bad First Act Disgracefully ~Wasting Its Technical Achievements

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The pacing of the first act is jaw-droppingly uninspired and somnambulistic, it taking even full minutes for Blake to die his hero’s death and be put out of his misery – and don’t get me started on the hundreds of jokes and quirky stories he feels obligated to tell us beforehand. I could not believe how weak and ill-paced the first half of the film was; I almost picked up and left the theater or took a snooze in what was being touted as one of the greatest films of the millennium.. and critics are always more forgiving of flaws than audiences by profession. 1917’s second half is good enough to atone for the sins of its first – but huge, gaping problems are to be found unavoidably in its first half: a weak 1-hour storyline/plot stretched paper-thin, unmemorable and unpedigree cast of unknowns we cannot fathom why Mendes couldn’t attract better talent to, and ill-paced slog where literally nothing of consequence happens until they get to the farmhouse.


This Isn’t Your Granddad’s War Movie

A Technical Masterstroke That Could Change The Trajectory Of What’s Possible In Filmmaking (& Gets More Right Than Wrong)

Photo Courtesy Of: Universal Pictures

‪Overall, 1917 is a mixed package. The film is undeniably one of the greatest technical achievements in the history of filmmaking by its two-hour singular continuous shot motif even visionary directors of past only dreamt of one day being possible – as well as a different type of war film being more grounded and focused on human experience and adventure than traditional genre tenets. The film is also stunningly-uneventful and borderline-weak on most other facets – from cast ensemble to script/plot construction to pacing to performances; like biting into a juicy burger.. only for it to be clay filler on the inside. This race against time and across enemy lines should have been a race back into the writers’ room and casting pens to give the visual craftsmen the rest of the tools their hard work and innovation deserved. An immersive technical masterstroke impossibly (and groundbreakingly) filmed in one singular continuous shot that could change filmmaking history – painfully near wasted by a *shockingly*-soporific plot, weak opening act, & miscast ensemble.

Official CLC Score: 7.1/10