While “1917” isn’t the first film to claim that it is all one shot (Hitchcock’s “Rope” comes to mind, as well as movies that actually are one take like “Russian Ark”), it is the most technologically impressive film to claim this feat. A film about a pair of young men charging head long into several battles of World War I to stop a massacre before it’s too late is difficult enough on its own, but every big moment in “1917” is done in one continuous shot, giving a larger sense of scale and grandeur, as well as building up the tension as we’re put in the middle of the action with these two, like we’re the third soldier going along for the ride. And while there are certainly moments where the film breaks and a new shot begins, the illusion and atmosphere is never broken as the film puts us right in the heart of such an inhuman struggle.
What sets “1917” above most other one shot films is all the risks it takes. There are so many impressive technological feats, like the long, disgusting walk through No-Mans’ Land as we go through several trenches, a field of barbed wire, passed several decaying bodies and across a body of water like we were gliding on top of it. Or a huge chase scene through a city reduced to rubble while flares light up the night sky. So many scenes that would be wonderful filmed normally, yet are made even more impressive by being one shot. The cinematography and production design is nothing short of a masterpiece here, breathing new life into this small story to make it seem so personal and thrilling.
Final Grade: A-