1917: the anguish of World War I

16/11 · Por HBO · Reading 3 min.

Experience the harsh reality of World War I, head into the trenches in 1917, a magnificent film starring Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay.

1917: World War I as you’ve never seen it before

The grandson listened to his grandfather Alfred Mendes, who experienced the First World War in the flesh and later wrote a book about it (The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897–1991). Then the grandson, now an adult with a prestigious film career, decided to bring us the story as vividly as possible. Just as Peter Jackson did in 2018 with the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, in 2019 Sam Mendes (winner of the Best Director Oscar for American Beauty) offered us an accessible, agonizing, moving experience with the film 1917. Jackson used technology to colorize and modernize to the appropriate speed footage for an unprecedented number of real images from World War I. For his part, Mendes also employed technological advances and a first-class team headed by two greats: Roger Deakins and Lee Smith.

Lee Smith is a renowned editor, originally serving as the workhorse for Peter Weir on such films as Fearless (1993), The Truman Show (1998) and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003). He then went on to be the star editor for Christopher Nolan’s plot complexities in Batman Begins (2005), The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014) and Dunkirk (2017), among others.

Roger Deakins is among the most prestigious cinematographers in Hollywood, working on films that have become classics. His résumé includes Michael Radford's 1984 (1984), Agnieszka Holland’s The Secret Garden (1994), Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption (1995), M. Night Shyamalan's The Village (2004), Martin Scorsese's Kundun (1997), Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 (2017), John Crowley's The Goldfinch (2019) and a good number of movies with the Coen Brothers, from Barton Fink (1991) to No Country for Old Men (2007) and A Serious Man (2009), among many other high-quality films.


Mendes, Deakins and Smith deliver a gem that appears to have been filmed—enter the technological marvel—in a single sequence shot, recalling Alfred Hitchcock’s famous thriller Rope (1948). Of course, neither Rope nor 1917 was filmed in a single sequence shot, but Smith, who took charge of editing the Mendes project, succeeded in fully translating the intent of the filmmaker and his photographer.

A mission in the trenches

Nothing stops in 1917, everything moves forward, that is to say, everything is inexorable, there is no going back. Anyone who stops, loses … their life. All that moving forward, all that not stopping, all that continuing on lends a powerful sensation of being there, with the two young soldiers who must undertake what is practically a suicide mission through enemy-occupied territory. These two young men, Schofield (George MacKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), must traverse great danger to reach a 1600-man battalion charged with attacking a German contingent in order to notify them that their orders have changed. They must not proceed because the enemy has actually laid a trap for them, and they will easily be slaughtered.



Young and highly talented actors

George MacKay is a British actor who has made a name for himself in recent years. He received the BAFTA for Best Actor for the film For Those in Peril (2013). At Cannes, he took home the prestigious Trophée Chopard, an award given to young actors to recognize and foster their career. Also in 2014, the Berlinale presented him with the European Shooting Stars Award, precisely for being a rising star. So, there can be no doubt that MacKay is an actor to keep an eye on.

Dean-Charles Chapman is another young British actor, known for playing Tommen Baratheon in the HBO series Game of Thrones and for his roles in the feature films Before I Go to Sleep (2014) and Blinded by the Light (2019).

Also making brief appearances in 1917 are Richard Madden (who played Robb Stark in Game of Thrones), Mark Strong (Before I Go to Sleep), Benedict Cumberbatch (Brexit, Atonement), Daniel Mays (Made in Dagenham, Fisherman's Friends) and Colin Firth (The King's Speech).

This cinematic gem took home three Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director and Best Original Score. At the Oscars, Deakins captured the award for Best Cinematography.

1917, a great film that gives us an up-close experience of the harsh reality of World War I, coming in November to HBO and HBO GO.

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