Comparing the two World Wars, WWI is often overshadowed by its bigger, flashier sequel. World War 2 had modern technology, a clear enemy, and exists more recently in the cultural consciousness. It can be easy to forget that World War 1 was just as brutal, tragic and expansive as the conflict that would follow it. 1917 renders this atmosphere with cinematic brilliance.
The film follows two British soldiers, Tom Blake and Will Schofield, as they are sent on a critical mission to deliver a letter to the 2nd Devons unit with orders to halt an upcoming attack. If they fail then that unit will fall into a German trap and likely see all 1600 British soldiers killed, Blake’s brother among them. The path of their delivery will take them through recently German-controlled territory, with unknown dangers waiting for them. Time is of the essence. Lives are at stake.
My recommendation of 1917 would be remiss if I did not discuss its unique cinematography. The entire film is shot in a way to simulate a single, continuous take. The camera does not cut away from the main characters, making it feel like you are on this journey with them and sharing a close intimacy with their struggle. I will be blunt: this is a sad movie. It is beautiful, it is heroic, and ultimately it is a sobering perspective of warfare from the unfortunate souls forced to fight.