Skyfall and Spectre director Sam Mendes says that his new war film 1917 – which he has previously described as “the most exciting job of his career” – is so immersive that at times it “almost feels like a horror movie”.
And having caught an early preview of 1917 – a film that is being described as the best film since Saving Private Ryan – I can certainly vouch for the presence of these directorial decisions.
The film is certainly unnerving in places, so don’t go into it expecting a relaxing jolly to the cinema. It’s unapologetic in its unfiltered portrayal of the horrors of war, presenting them in a uniquely immersive way that’ll have you feeling like you’re encamped in the trenches yourself.
In a chat with The Hook at the London junket earlier this month, Mendes said:
“I wanted it to feel really immersive and I wanted to feel part of their journey, emotionally. I wanted to feel every second ticking down.
“[The film] operates as a ticking-clock thriller in many ways; it’s not a conventional war movie. It’s not combat film and there’s not a great deal of bloodshed.
“Sometimes it almost feels like a horror movie. I wanted to make the audience feel like they were locked in on this journey – ‘I have to travel this journey with these men, whether I want to or not’.
“That was something that would really accentuate the emotional stakes of the film – I want people entering the stories and connecting with the characters and going on this journey with them.”
Mendes created the 191-minute film to appear as one continuous shot – which is at the heart of this poignant yet brutal picture. The audience is forced to face the realities of war live with two young soldiers (portrayed by Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay).
The biggest reality of war is that something horrific could happen at any time, which Mendes has injected into his storytelling with haunting ease. This is edge-of-your-seat viewing at its core – a bomb could go off at any minute, someone could be killed at the swerve of a camera, a plane could crash right in front of you; in a way, 1917 depicts live horror and you can bet your arse I spent the majority of the film jumping with my fingers plunged inside my ear canals.
1917 tells the story of two young British soldiers at the height of the war, Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) as they are given a seemingly impossible task. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.
In this immersive cinematic experience, Mendes thrusts the audience into the immediate peril and vast scale of World War I, witnessing the conflict in an urgent and propulsive way.
Alongside MacKay and Chapman, 1917 stars Mark Strong (The Imitation Game), Andrew Scott (Amazon’s Fleabag), Richard Madden (Netflix’s Bodyguard), Daniel Mays (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) Adrian Scarborough (The Madness of King George), Jamie Parker (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), Nabhaan Rizwan (Informer), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and Benedict Cumberbatch, (Avengers series).
Srsly? Let’s just say you’re in good hands as an audience if this guy’s at the helm of anything. Also, as a former film student, I totally fan-girled when he met earlier this month. In fact, I may have even let out a squeak. Yes, a squeak.
Sam Mendes’s career as a film and theatre director spans more than 25 years.
In 1998, he directed his first film, American Beauty, winning the Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture, as well as the Golden Globe and Directors’ Guild Awards.
His first film.
He has since directed the Academy Award-winning Road to Perdition and Skyfall, as well as Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, Away We Go and Spectre.
I am not worthy.
1917 – you’ve never seen a war film like this.
Images via Getty and Universal
Having worked in children's media and publishing for almost a decade, Ben is thoroughly excited to now be able to swear in stories and features. He is such a big fan of Disney and Horror films that he started an LGBTQ+ podcast called 'Once Upon A Scream'. His mum listens. You can contact Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @PulsfordBen / Instagram: @thebenmidlerFollow