1917: The Defining War Movie of the Decade



1917, directed by Sam Mendes

Every decade has its defining war movie: the 1960s had The Great Escape, the 1970s – Apocalypse Now, the 1990s – Saving Private Ryan, and the 2000s – The Hurt Locker. Each is remembered for bringing horrors incomprehensible to most audience members to stunning life. These films are standouts not only in their own genre, but in filmmaking in general. Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk seemed the clear winner of the 2010s, earning praise from critics and the general public alike and winning three Academy Awards. However, new to the field is a film that I believe will not only win more than three Oscars, but I hope will be remembered as the war movie of the past decade, as well as one of the greatest films of its kind.
Sam Mendes’ masterpiece, 1917, debuted quietly last December with limited hype and publicity. However, as more people began to see the film, word spread and 1917 grew in popularity. The film follows the story of two young British soldiers in France who must relay orders to officers at the front lines during World War I. Their job is crucial, as troops will perish if orders are not delivered in time.
The film offers a deep and realistic look at the story of the soldiers as they embark on their perilous quest. Within the first ten minutes, the camera follows them through rows and rows of trenches as they try to get to their destination, capturing fleeting glimpses of men huddled in the mud beside sand-bag walls. The main characters themselves add to the immersion of the film, as the actors are both new to the big screen. Had they cast a DiCaprio or a Damon, the audience would have struggled to look past these familiar faces to receive a fully immersive experience of men in danger of losing their lives.
If 1917 does not win Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards, the Academy will once again be under fire from the community. 1917’s most notable feature is its one-shot style; the entire movie is filmed without any cuts, directly from the perspectives of the two protagonists. This one-shot technique, paired with genius directing and staging, creates some of the most chilling images ever shown on the silver screen.
In one scene, the lights and shadows flying over the rubble of a ruined French town raised goosebumps up and down my arms. This incredible cinematography is the reason that 1917 has also been nominated for Best Director and Best Picture, and it will not surprise me in the least bit if it wins both of those as well.