1917 (2019): ‘War in One Take’ – A Film Review



Recently I saw a video essay that talked about recent trends in filmmaking that are dying out or we’re forgetting about. These included shaky cam, 3D, found footage and point of view heavy filmmaking. Something that wasn’t mentioned, but is, if anything, on the rise, is the long take. Though, like many film techniques (3D has existed since the 50s for example), it isn’t new. Famous examples of films using long takes for the majority of the film include Rope, Russian Ark, Irréversible, Climax (in fact many of Gaspar Noé’s films) and, in fact, Hardcore Henry does both the one take and the POV shot. Whilst many films also make extensive use of long takes to great effect such as The Red and the White and Come and See, both could well have been specific influences for 1917. Long Takes are impressive for the amount of set, choreography, acting and camera man stamina required to pull it off. This technique is therefore a spectacle of the cinema. A reason to get bums on seats, 1917 is an example of this technique for modern audiences.


The Long Take Form

It takes a lot of talent to do this and pull it off. Many, Rope and Gaspar Noé’s films included, will place in secret edits between the numerous long takes. It is likely 1917 does the same but it isn’t visible (with one deliberate exception). Hidden from the eye, 1917 manages an intense realism as everything happens and unfolds very realistically in front of you. The Long Takes giving atmosphere to the film’s form, not only in the immediate realism but to the breadth of the landscapes and men involved in such a difficult time. It helps make the film what it is and carry a lot more emotional weight and intensity. Given that these shots are also beautiful, well lit and with some incredible special effects, it is all the more impressive to watch. People die and go white in front of the camera, seemingly without anyone being able to apply these changes.


The Entertaining Realism

There are moments where, for timing, ellipsis is used. These moments help to increase the overall tension of the film, which has a simple but effective premise that has a time limit to. Otherwise, pacing can sometimes be an issue, as the atmosphere builds and you’re slowly taken from location to location. This is, however, a small price to pay for a gut wrenching atmosphere. Actors give fine performances, keeping up with the demands of films style. Though many characters come and go in a strange sense of the road movie but for a War film.  There is a lot to talk about for genre, style, realism and atmosphere.



Overall, an impressive film, which is daring to do something interesting with the films style. It pushes what can be done with the one take film to new heights and accomplishes something very difficult. Making it all the more impressive to watch, when already we have the mass of complex sets and atmospheres to take in. Lighting can sometimes completely amaze audiences. All whilst doing it in Long Takes. It has to take a choreography of all actors and crew to pull off. Much like some of its influences, this is a film to watch and experience.



Two soldiers are given a letter with important orders not to attack before the next dawn’s attack, or they’ll all fall into a trap.




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A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below the review for any who wish to see one.


Films Mentioned

1917 (d. Sam Mendes USA/UK 2019)

Climax (d. Gaspar Noé France/Belgium 2018)

Come and See (d. Elem Klimov Soviet Union 1985)

Hardcore Henry (d. Ilya Naishuller Russia/USA/China 2015)

Irréversible (d. Gaspar Noé France 2002)

Rope (d. Alfred Hitchcock USA 1948)

Russian Ark / Russkiy kovcheg (d. Aleksandr Sokurov Russia/Germany/Japan/Canada/Finland/Denmark 2002)

The Red and the White (d. Miklós Jancsó Hungary/Soviet Union 1967)


Further Reading



Official Site

Cast & Director Interviews

Sam Mendes Interview

Cast & Crew Interview

Behind the Scenes

More Behind the Scenes



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Spectre (2015) – A Film Review

Dunkirk (2017) – A Film Review

Darkest Hour (2017): ‘Politics in Britain’ – A Film Review

This was an analytical review of….


1917 (d. Sam Mendes USA/UK 2019)

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