Alfred Hitchcock's Rope was a movie where the director created the illusion that the film had been made in one uninterrupted take. Sam Mendes tries a similar experiment with 1917. But while Rope took place at a cocktail party, Mendes' film takes place on the battlefields of World War I, upping the logistical challenge considerably. The gamble pays off, though, and 1917 is one of the year's best films.
Dean-Charles Chapman plays a British soldier enlisted to deliver an urgent message across no man's land: an impending attack must be called off. One of the soldiers in peril if the attack continues is Chapman's brother. Chapman is accompanied by a loyal corporal (George MacKay). They must face German soldiers, booby traps, rotting corpses, giant rats, muddy quagmires, and more.
The continuous-shot strategy isn't just a gimmick. It allows viewers to get a sense of the length of the trenches and the size of the battlefields. While no film can ever truly convey the experience of battle, Mendes' filmmaking strategy makes it easier for viewers to understand how utterly exhausting it all must be, on top of the life-and-death terror.
1917 recently won the Golden Globe for Best Picture (Drama). It will likely earn several Oscar nominations, too. They will be well-deserved, for it's an exciting, immersive cinematic experience.