Review: “1917” Paying Homage to a Forgotten War 

Laney Justice

In American cinema, war films are usually WWII and Vietnam focused. Hardly ever do we see a movie focusing on the conflicts of WWI. This could be due to the fact that America didn’t enter the war until 1917, one year before the armistice agreement was signed. Sam Mendes changes this with his eighth directorial role: 1917.  

During World War I, two British soldiers — Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake — receive seemingly impossible orders. In a race against time, they must cross over into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow comrades — including Blake’s own brother. The film begins with a claustrophobic trek through the trenches, a style of fighting synonymous with World World I. One thing unusual about this film is that Mendes used the “one shot” technique of filming. In movies and television, cuts are when a scene changes, such as from day to night, or from one place in the world to another. There is only one cut in this entire movie, making audience members feel as if they are right in the action, following Schofield and Blake on their perilous journey.

There is a lack of dialogue as the two men travel from one hellish landscape to another, adding to the sense of tension felt from the very first scene. The movie is nail-biting and grand, really making moviegoers feel as if they were traveling through No Man’s Land and destroyed towns, too. 

Music plays a very important role in this movie. Tom Newman wrote the score, who has been previously nominated for fourteen Academy Awards and three Golden Globes, and has won two BAFTAs, six Grammys and an Emmy Award. For 1917, Newman opted for epic, soaring orchestral pieces. In a recent interview by the LA Times, Newman says:  “If you see [director Sam Mendes’] stage plays, music typically plays a big role, so I think he likes it. Which is obviously a great thing, as a musician, to be around.”

Nominated for ten Academy Awards, among them Best Picture, 1917 is a heart-pounding, heart-wrenching war film, dedicated to every soldier who served and every civilian who lived during WWI and the director’s grandfather, WWI veteran, Alfred Mendes. 

1917 is currently playing at Ruby Cinemas and Cherokee Phoenix Theatre.