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Review of 1917 Film Featurette

By Rachel Brooks

Contributor | Telegraph Local 

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Pictured above, Sam Mendes is famous for directing Skyfall, the photo is of the 2012 premier for that film.

Universal Pictures on YouTube

1917 was built from a fragment of real history. The director, Sam Mendes,  followed the footsteps of his grandfather, who was a messenger on the frontlines of the First World War. Now, with the extended featurette of 1917, you can fully understand how a film of such magnitude was brought to life. 

The story follows two young men who are on a “race against time” to save 16 hundred lives, one of whom is the brother of one of the protagonists. It is the character, Blake, and his love for his brother that drives on the film.

One character is quoted saying, “If you don’t get there in time, it will be a massacre.” 

This is a story that encapsulates thematics of friendship, dire stakes, duties of wartime, and the full weight of responsibility the young men and women of WW1 faced. It is an important message today because of the massive political shift and conflict escalation of our own times. We, as young people of the 2020 era, are living approximately 103 years after the events of 1917. We feel the same looking horror looking on at our world that is a powder keg of political intrigue. 

These characters fill a void of time and space. With instinctual actors and a script born from the heart of a grandson’s love, this featurette is an event forged for the hour from the heat of the human experience. 

Mendes stated about the film, “From the very beginning, I felt that this story should be told in real-time.” He felt that the best way to breathe each breath and take each step of the World War 1 trenches with those two young men would be a continuous following shot.

The camera followed the actors like National Geographic photographers in the bush. The cameras and their dance must follow the actor. The set must be built and forge forward to let the camera move endlessly through the exterior. “No location every repeats”, said one of the crew members on the Featurette.

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“It felt like a piece of theater every take. Once it starts it can’t stop. If something goes wrong, you’ve just got to keep going.” _said George MacKay 

“There were so many scenes that I just got completely lost in. Sometimes a scene was six minutes long_and when they called cut, I would just completely forget who I was. I was Blake.” _said Dean-Charles Chapman. 

The energy of this film was real-time rolling which meant that you never stopped the entire sequence. Every step must be measured. The actors had to walk the field where the land was shooting, to rehearse every line of dialogue on site. The dialogue of this film had to be rehearsed so that, as the director tells it, “the world can be crafted around the set,'” said the crew on the featurette.

The manufacturers also had to immerse themselves to build over a mile of trenches, and real illustrations brought to life, that had to be measured at exact distances. The whole process of how a film is viewed and how a film is made was changed with this movie. 

Universal Pictures

The 1917 Featurette will be available in select theaters this Christmas. 

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