Making One Shot Count: 1917 Review


1917 Press Release

Promotional movie poster for 1917, Sam Mendes’ WWI war epic film. Photo from 1917 Press Release

Hazel Booth, Online Editor

1917 is a war movie directed by Sam Mendes that released initially late in December 2019 and had a wider release this January. Based on the initial trailer, I dismissed 1917 as just another war movie expecting the usual flashy yet forgetful fanfare. This changed when the buzz started up. The film began popping up in the critic’s top movies of the year lists, discussions over its visually interesting cinematography continued and this rush of praise is only growing. The movie snagging a Golden Globe for Best Drama Motion Picture and Best Director of a Motion Picture, cementing itself as a serious contender to grab some awards at the upcoming Oscars.


Once I saw the movie, it lived up to the hype and this article will be SPOILER FREE not covering any specific plot points. This movie has many great aspects but my favorite is its ability to keep you drawn in. The characters, the story, and the eventual outcome keep you invested. I rarely took my eyes off the screen, at the edge of my seat, often with my fists clenched, jumping at the sounds of war throughout the film. When the characters struggle, it feels as though you’re struggling along with them. This film nails its efforts to evoke empathy in its viewers.


One of the major draws for the film in award shows is its cinematography, and while it was made to look as if it was filmed in one continuous take, it was achieved through artful, unobtrusive editing rather than actually doing it in one take. The film’s unique style immerses the viewer in the experience. Similar to how the best stories feel like a conversation between the reader and the media, 1917 feels like a story told to you by a close friend, so tense that you feel as though you were there and sit rapt with attention.


The character work in the film is subtle, yet powerful you do not simply get details, rather an artful drip feed throughout the story, culminating in a connection and investment in these characters’ wellbeing. This results in you holding your breath in a stressful moment along with the character, exhaling when they do. 


Speaking of stressful moments, the soundtrack and general sound design go a long way to enhance the experience. In this story, the sound of a gunshot ringing out or a crash aren’t just the atmospheric background of war, but also a stressor. The soundtrack of this film works quite nicely as well, fitting with the stressful tone at times, and compliments the film’s immersive nature. By the time I left this movie, I thought “That is a truly amazing movie I never want to watch again” this is the type of movie that so clearly demonstrates film is an art form. 


It seems the hype train is continuing, racking up 10 Oscar nominations, including Best Cinematography, which it has a very good shot at winning in my opinion, Best Director, and Best Picture, along with other important categories. While the Academy can be out of touch, nominating films seemingly made only for them and not a general audience, this is not one of those films, and I could not recommend it enough.