Universal Pictures has released a new, extended featurette for Sam Mendes’ World War I movie 1917. The film follows two British soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) as they race across enemy lines to deliver a message that could save hundreds of their fellow men.
What this video does an excellent job of showing is that it’s not just a matter of doing the film to make it look like one take. You have to build sets that need room for the cameras and can’t be too long or too short for what the scene requires. The film takes place outside, so you can’t control the lighting and have to wait for the cloud cover to be just right so that the shots match up. And then when you do get cloud cover, you have a limited window to get it right on top of everything else that has to go right for the scene to work. There’s a scene that uses flares, so you need to figure out how long the flares must stay in the air. As one production head puts it, “It’s a highly choreographed piece, so every inch has to be accounted for.”
Yes, this video is a bit of advertising to get people to see a World War I movie this holiday season and to convince awards voters to give the film accolades. I don’t care. 1917 absolutely deserves your attention and it deserves any awards it receives. It’s a remarkable piece of filmmaking.
Check out the extended 1917 featurette below. The film opens in select theaters on December 25th before going wide on January 10th.
Here’s the official synopsis for 1917:
At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic’s George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.