If there is a film out there from 2019 that will inspire filmmakers around the world, it has to be 1917. This is about as cohesive and locked into place as you can get creatively and is a masterclass of a working relationship from director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins. 1917 certainly has a gimmick with the one-shot (broken into two parts) thing but the story doesn’t only rely on it but the gimmick very much relies on the story.
The man of the hour is Deakins who gets to play with both natural light and night shoots with artificial lighting like he’s a kid in a bouncy castle. Not a single frame of the movie is wasted as it always keeps the main characters in your eyesight or lets you know where they are positioned. There is an underground portion where corporals Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are exploring the place and then fighting for their lives which is full of incredible close quarters filming. Similarly a highlight is the night time where you get more shadows and fire elements thrown in to the look of the film. By being in awe of it all you might forget what detailed work Mendes is doing in the director’s chair as every camera movement is so sophisticatedly choreographed and cut together. There is a gloomy score by Thomas Newman which is perfectly eerie especially in the first 30 minutes and it’s meshed with anxiety-inducing sound design for the whole runtime. The visual effects are incredibly realistic looking to the point where they blend in well with the overall production design.
After the riveting beginning the film comes down a level following a certain farm house scene as a big twist happens. This unfortunately puts a halt to main pair Schofield’s and Blake’s banter which was really building something fascinating in their development. 1917 never picks up the pace again quite like it so the rest of it feels like a cutscene (though a masterful one in technical sense). MacKay and Chapman as actors just don’t get a piece big enough to bite on, instead a lot of their work turns into grunting and coughing which would be fine if there was something else too.
Smileys: Cinematography, directing, sound, score, production design, VFX
Frowneys: Characters, dips slightly in second half
1917 is the best example of craftsmanship you can achieve right now.