Sam Mendes’ 1917 is among the frontrunners to secure the Best Picture crown at the 2020 Academy Awards – and seems a shoo-in for the corresponding BAFTA gong. To celebrate the film’s release in ODEON cinemas on 10 January, we take a look at why this First World War drama is generating so much Oscar buzz.
British director Sam Mendes first announced himself to the movie-making world in 1999, when his melancholy murder mystery American Beauty was released to a rapturous reception, it went on to win the Best Picture Oscar at the 2000 Academy Awards, with Mendes also taking home Best Director.
His work is always technically ambitious, but he also allows ample time for audiences to get to know his characters, who are never less than multi-faceted. With 1917, he has once again combined these two key components to create what critics are calling his greatest film yet.
Flanking Mendes are, among others, legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins (a 12-time Oscar nominee and the 2018 Oscar winner for Blade Runner 2049), editor Lee Smith (an Oscar winner for Dunkirk), production designer Dennis Gassner (an Oscar winner for Bugsy) and composer Thomas Newman (a 14-time Oscar nominee).
With this glittering team working in harmony, something very special was always guaranteed.
1917 is filmed to look like a single, continuous shot, by which we mean, the camera never once breaks away from the action. Yes, there are a few sneaky edits, but by and large the audience is up to their knees in mud alongside our young heroes – George MacKay as Lance Corporal Schofield and Dean-Charles Chapman as Lance Corporal Blake – from start to incredible finish.
Aided by a new type of camera, the ALEXA Mini LF, the production of which was brought forward to coincide with the start of filming, cinematographer Roger Deakins has created an experience that will quite simply blow your mind.
War, as they say, is hell, and 1917 offers a better understanding than most as to what that really means. Inspired by the stories his grandfather told him as a boy (Alfred H. Mendes was a messenger on the Western Front during the First World War), Sam Mendes has created a film that’s both technically dazzlingly and wonderfully intimate.
Due to the decision to film 1917 as one long shot, a lot of the scenes are wordless (although certainly not silent), but that doesn’t stop the audience from forming a heightened emotional bond with the two young soldiers trying so desperately to save their brothers-in-arms.
1917 has timed its run to perfection. December will see the film enjoying a limited release, because it goes nationwide in January, meaning it’s front and centre in the minds of the judges when the time comes to vote.
There’s also the fact that critics LOVE IT. Our advice? If there’s ever a film to drag yourself off the sofa for, it’s this one. It’s simply incredible and it’s going to win BIG!