by K. Ralls
‘The iconic long shot of protagonist, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay), running in No Man’s Land which illustrates how lethal World War 1 is and the danger these soldiers put themselves through.’
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Colin Firth & Andrew Scott
Synopsis: Set in April 1917, on the Western Front, two British soldiers are assigned a tremendously life-threatening task to deliver an urgent message that will stop 1,600 men from walking into a deadly trap, being caught amongst lethal enemy territory.
Review: 1917 is a very successful film, winning numerous prestigious awards, including two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and seven British Academy Film Awards. Rightly so – this film excels in terms of cinematography, mise-en-scene and the score, conveying the harsh reality of World War 1 while also creating an emotional experience for the audience.
The main aspect of 1917 that stood out for me was the incredible cinematography – more specifically the tracking shots that take up the vast majority of the film with the camera tracking behind or in front of the actors. This has a huge effect on us as an audience as it makes us feel as though we are part of the action – this is particularly effective in war films as they are a reality and convey authenticity. Not only that but 1917 is filmed as if it is one extraordinary tracking single take, again, making us as an audience feel as though we are part of the action. The tracking single-take style is especially important in this film as it captures the environment of the characters which is vital as the mise-en-scene – particularly the setting – has a huge impact in 1917.
The film has true to life, authentic mise-en-scene throughout, including the dominating, dull, earthly toned colours, the realistic setting of the trenches and battlefields and conventional props of war films, including guns and explosions. This mise-en-scene is vital as it represents genuine circumstances of the war. The dull colours paired with explosions and action encapsulates the harsh reality of young soldiers in World War 1. Especially, the iconic long shot of protagonist, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay), running in No Man’s Land which illustrates how lethal World War 1 is and the danger these soldiers put themselves through. The lighting is a focal point of the film. With a lot of the story taking place at night and the lack of artificial lighting, every aspect of natural lighting and radiance stands out and gives an eerie effect to the film. The natural lighting is used to give maximum realism for this film.
The score, by Thomas Newman, is one of the most celebrated aspects of 1917. The orchestral score, which was nominated for best original score at the Oscars, conveys just the right emotion in the audience. From slow, melancholic string instruments in the film’s opening scenes to an intense and exceptional score during the climax of the film, the soundtrack holds back and peaks at the right points.
Overall, this film was extremely enjoyable. The use of the incredible tracking shots and the feel of single-take evokes an authentic, realism within the film that touches the audience in a dismal way. The mise-en-scene captures the harsh reality of a soldier in World War 1 and the score evokes the sorrowful and tense emotions achieved through the highs and lows of the music.
1917 is currently streaming on Prime Video and was rated 15 by the BBFC.