1917 might be the most important war story we’ve seen told

1917 movie, photo courtesy Universal Pictures
1917 movie, photo courtesy Universal Pictures /

1917 was promoted heavily on its direction. One continuous shot, in case you hadn’t heard. But what story did this movie tell that hasn’t already been told?

As we stand today, we hear talk on the news of a potential World War 3. The idea seems to be thrown around loosely at times, and we often forget what war looks like. If you haven’t served yourself, it’s hard to truly imagine even if you care deeply about the military. 1917 takes on the task of giving you that experience.

As the son of a 30 year military vet, who served two tours in Iraq, I can speak to the feeling of not knowing if your loved one is safe. However, it’s a much more perilous feeling to be in the fight.

Sam Mendes and his crew put themselves through a lot to make sure that they made the film as intimate as possible and it worked. The immersive experience created is why 1917 won the Golden Globes for Best Picture (Drama) and Best Director. Despite any perceived bias because of the more recent release date, those awards were earned.

1917 still
1917 movie, photo courtesy Universal Pictures /

The story

The trailer gives you the setup. Lance Corporal Blake, played by Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones, Into the Badlands), has been assigned a mission to get a letter through enemy territory to stop an attack. That attack, if executed, would lead to the death of 1600 men as the Germans have set a trap for them. Among those men is Blake’s brother

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It’s an impossible mission, but it’s the only shot they have. Blake was asked to bring a man with him before he knew what his assignment was and he brings Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay.) As the two head out, it’s clear that Blake is both anxious to save his brother and also less experienced than Schofield.

We assume that the two men are good buddies, but we learn quickly that they don’t know much about each other. The movie follows their journey from start to finish, and by no means is it an easy trek.

The power of subtlety

One part of 1917 that I think makes it special is that it doesn’t try too hard. War movies tend to attempt to oversell you on dramatic moments. They often try to force you to be emotional through dramatic scores and emotional outbursts from actors.

In 1917 everything comes off more matter-of-fact. As our men begin their journey they have to climb past dead horses. The horses quickly shift to dead men but, after a very jarring early moment with a body, the bodies even fade to the background. They’re there, you see them, it’s ugly, but the directors do not go out of their way to create dramatic moments with them.

This was the reality of trench warfare. It’s brutal, ugly, and unforgiving. It’s also very claustrophobic and at points you’ll feel like you are stuck in the bunker with Blake and Schofield.

The ability of Mendes to portray those difficult scenes without lingering on them was powerful and the most important part of what makes the movie special to me. We aren’t shown the war as spectators. We are thrust into it like our main actors and just trying to survive.

1917 movie poster.. Image Courtesy Universal Pictures /


There were less than 5 minutes where you could truly relax during 1917. The action begins almost immediately and the threat of death looms for the majority of the duration. Sometimes it’s obvious. When the men are dodging gunshots or a crashing plane, as you saw in the trailer, you know they are in danger. Then you have the moments where you’re simply not sure.

For example, after our men receive their assignment they immediately have to cross “no man’s land.” In case you don’t know, it was named this because no man should be there if he plans to live much longer.

It’s the space between the trenches of the allies and the enemies so moving into that space means you are exposed and easy to target. When they take off they aren’t sure if the Germans have truly left their posts. Even if they did, there’s the possibility that they left a few men to pick off the first wave of English soldiers to try to cross.

The danger is very clear to Schofield, though Blake is a bit more eager to go. 1917 does not take it easy on your nerves.


My favorite thing about 1917 is that it does not romanticize the war. War is brutal, it’s ugly, and the men fighting it weren’t all doing it to be heroes and they weren’t all special. There’s no funny buddy that dies to help the movie become more serious. There’s no super soldier that takes out 50 soldiers by himself. No badass with a cigarette sticking out of his mouth. Just two young men, scared and following orders.

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Along the way, they run into other young men who are just doing the job. None of these men actually want to be here and all are just hoping they can one day get to go home to their loved ones.

1917 is currently playing in theaters and is an experience you don’t want to miss.