1917 (2019 film)

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1917
1917 (2019 film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySam Mendes
Produced by
Written by
Starring
Music byThomas Newman
CinematographyRoger Deakins
Edited byLee Smith
Production
company
Distributed by
Release date
  • 4 December 2019 (2019-12-04) (London)
  • 25 December 2019 (2019-12-25) (United States)
  • 10 January 2020 (2020-01-10) (United Kingdom)
Running time
119 minutes[1]
Country
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$90–100 million[2][3]
Box office$147.5 million[4]

1917 is a 2019 epic war film directed, co-written and produced by Sam Mendes. The film stars George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch. It is based in part on an account told to Mendes by his paternal grandfather, Alfred Mendes,[5] and chronicles the story of two young British soldiers during World War I who are tasked with delivering a message calling off an attack doomed to fail, soon after the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich in 1917.

The project was officially announced in June 2018, with MacKay and Chapman signing on in October and the rest of the cast the following March. Filming took place from April to June 2019 in England and Scotland, with cinematographer Roger Deakins using long takes to have the entire film appear as one continuous shot.

1917 premiered in the UK on 4 December 2019, and was theatrically released in the United States on 25 December, by Universal Pictures, and in the United Kingdom on 10 January 2020, by eOne. The film was praised by critics for Mendes's direction, the performances, cinematography, musical score, sound effects and realism. Among its various accolades, the film received 10 nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The film won Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director at the 77th Golden Globe Awards, and has received nine nominations at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards. It also won the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture.

Plot[edit]

During the First World War in April 1917, the German army has pulled back from a sector of the Western Front in the north of France. General Erinmore briefs two young British soldiers, Lance Corporals Tom Blake and Will Schofield. Aerial reconnaissance has spotted that the Germans are not in retreat but have made a tactical withdrawal to their new Hindenburg Line, where they are waiting to overwhelm the British with artillery. With field telephone lines cut, Blake and Schofield are ordered to hand-deliver a message to the Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, calling off their planned attack, which might cost the lives of 1,600 men including Blake's brother Lieutenant Joseph Blake.

Schofield and Blake cross no man's land to reach the abandoned German trenches. These turn out to contain tripwires, which a rat triggers. The ensuing explosion almost kills Schofield, but Blake digs him out. They arrive at an abandoned farmhouse, where they witness a dogfight between three aircraft. The German plane is shot down and plunges into the farm in flames. Schofield and Blake drag the burned pilot from the plane. Schofield proposes to mercy kill him, but Blake has Schofield fetch water for the pilot. The German pilot stabs Blake and is shot dead by Schofield, who comforts Blake as he dies, promising to complete the mission. Schofield is picked up by a passing British unit.

A destroyed bridge near the bombed-out village of Écoust-Saint-Mein prevents the British lorries from crossing, so Schofield crosses alone on the remnants of the bridge. This draws an attack by a German sniper across the river. Schofield tracks down and kills the sniper, only to be knocked out by a ricocheting bullet. Schofield regains consciousness later that night. Fired upon by a German soldier, Schofield stumbles into the hiding place of a French woman with an infant. She treats his wounds and he gives her his canned food and his canteen filled with milk from the farm. Continuing, Schofield is shot at amid flares lighting up the night sky. He later meets more German soldiers, strangling one and pushing past another who is too inebriated to stop him. Other soldiers give chase, but he escapes the gunfire by jumping into a river. Schofield reaches the 2nd Devons just before the British attack begins.

Failing to stop the start of the attack, he sprints across the battlefield after realising that the trenches are too full of soldiers for him to make it to the commander in time. As the British infantry begin their charge, they, along with Schofield, are bombarded by German artillery. Schofield forces his way into meeting Colonel Mackenzie, and the attack is called off. Schofield asks for Joseph and learns that Joseph was among the first attacking wave. After a futile search among the wounded in the British medical tent, Schofield locates an unhurt Joseph nearby. Joseph is upset on learning of Blake's death, but thanks Schofield for his efforts. Schofield asks to write to Blake's mother to tell her about Blake's heroics, to which Joseph agrees. Schofield walks away and sits under a nearby tree. The film ends with Schofield looking at several photos with his two young daughters and his wife, one with a message written on it: Come back to us.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Development and casting[edit]

Amblin Partners and New Republic Pictures were announced to have acquired the project in June 2018, with Sam Mendes directing, and co-writing the screenplay alongside Krysty Wilson-Cairns.[6] Tom Holland was reported to be in talks for the film in September 2018, though ultimately was not involved,[7] and in October, Roger Deakins was set to reunite with Mendes as cinematographer.[8] George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman entered negotiations to star the same month.[9] Thomas Newman was hired to compose the score in March 2019.[10] The same month, Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Richard Madden, Andrew Scott, Daniel Mays, Adrian Scarborough, Jamie Parker, Nabhaan Rizwan and Claire Duburcq joined the cast in supporting roles.[11]

Writing[edit]

In August 2019, Mendes stated, "It's the story of a messenger who has a message to carry. And that's all I can say. It lodged with me as a child, this story or this fragment and obviously I've enlarged it significantly. But it has that at its core."[12] In Time magazine in 2020, Mendes stated that the writing involved some risk-taking, "I took a calculated gamble, and I'm pleased I did because of the energy you get just from driving forward (in the narrative), in a war that was fundamentally about paralysis and stasis." The ideas for a script, which Mendes wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, came from the story that Mendes's grandfather, Alfred Mendes, a native of Trinidad who was a messenger for the British on the Western Front, had told him.[13]

Filming[edit]

Roger Deakins was cinematographer for the film, reuniting with Mendes for their fourth collaboration, having first worked together on Jarhead in 2005.[13] Filming was accomplished with long takes and elaborately choreographed moving camera shots to give the effect of one continuous take.[14][15] Time reported, "The camera stays with the two lance corporals from the film's first frame to its last, as if unfolding in one long take, much like the technique used by Alejandro González Iñárritu in his 2015 Best Picture winner Birdman. The aim is to immerse the viewer in a propulsive, at times headlong journey that travels like a lit fuse."[16]

Filming began on 1 April 2019 and continued through June 2019 in Wiltshire, Hankley Common in Surrey and Govan, Scotland, as well as at Shepperton Studios.[17][18][19][20] Concern was raised over the planned filming on Salisbury Plain by conservationists who felt the production could disturb potentially undiscovered remains, requesting a survey before any set construction began.[21][22] Some shots required the use of as many as 500 background extras.[2]

Sections of the film were also shot near Low Force, on the River Tees, Teesdale in June 2019. The production staff had to install signs warning walkers in the area not to be alarmed at the prosthetic bodies strewn around the site.[23]

Release[edit]

The film premiered on 4 December 2019, at the 2019 Royal Film Performance.[24] The film began a limited release in the United States and Canada on 25 December 2019, in 11 theatres total. This made it eligible for 2020 awards, including the 77th Golden Globes, held on 5 January 2020, where the film won both the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Motion Picture and Best Director for Mendes.

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

As of 22 January 2020, 1917 has grossed $84.4 million in the United States and Canada and $63.1 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $147.5 million.[4]

The film made $251,000 from 11 venues on its first day of limited release.[25] It went on to have a limited opening weekend of $570,000, and a five-day gross of $1 million, for an average of $91,636 per-venue, from December 25 to December 29.[26] The film made $2.7 million over its 15 days of limited release. It then expanded wide on January 10, making $14 million on its first day of wide release, including $3.25 million from Thursday night previews. It went on to gross $36.5 million for the weekend (beating the original projections of $25 million), becoming the first film to dethrone Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker at the box office.[27] In its second weekend of wide release the film made $22 million (and $26.8 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday), finishing second, behind newcomer Bad Boys for Life.[28]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 89% based on 368 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Hard-hitting, immersive, and an impressive technical achievement, 1917 captures the trench warfare of World War I with raw, startling immediacy."[29] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 78 out of 100 based on 57 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews."[30] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, and PostTrak reported it received an average 4.5 out of 5 from viewers, with 69% of people saying they would definitely recommend it.[27]

MacKay's performance received praise, with several critics naming it among the best of 2019, including Kate Erbland of IndieWire[31] and Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter.[32] Karl Vick, writing for Time magazine, found the film to stand up favourably when compared to Stanley Kubrick's WWI film Paths of Glory, stating, "motion pictures do require a certain amount of motion, and the major accomplishment of 1917, the latest film to join the canon, maybe that its makers figured out what the generals could not: a way to advance."[33] Rubin Safaya of AwardsWatch.com described the movie as "A visceral experience and visual masterclass."[34] Writing for the Hindustan Times, Rohan Naahar stated, "I can only imagine the effect 1917 will have on audiences that aren't familiar with the techniques Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins are about to unleash upon them."[35]

In his review for NPR, Justin Chang was less positive. He agreed the film was a "mind-boggling technical achievement" but did not think it was that spectacular overall, as Mendes’s style with its impression of a continuous take “can be as distracting as it is immersive.”[36]

Top ten lists[edit]

1917 appeared on many critics' year-end top-ten lists:[37]

Accolades[edit]

1917 received ten nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards.[68] It received three nominations at the 77th Golden Globe Awards and won two: for Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director.[69] It also received eight nominations at the 25th Critics' Choice Awards and nine nominations at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards.[70][71] It was chosen by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of the year.[72][73]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]