Cinephiles and casual movie-goers alike often go gaga over the idea of scenes, and even entire movies told in one continuous shot. Not only is it a technical achievement, but it also looks pretty darn cool, too. Sam Mendes‘ World War I film 1917 is the latest piece of entertainment to rely on this trick, tellings its entire story in one continuous shot. Of course, the movie wasn’t really shot that way, since that’s virtually impossible. But Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and more have banded together to make the film seem like it’s unfolding in one very long take. A new 1917featurette highlights the technique.
Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s 2014 Oscar-winner Birdman was constructed to resemble a film created via one long continuous shot, joining an ever-growing list of movies adopting this format. Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 Rope did the same thing. In both of those cases, though, the one-shot format was smoke and mirrors. Careful editing was employed to trick the viewer’s eye into thinking they were watching films unfolding in one unbroken take. And now Sam Mendes’ 1917 will do the same.
(Side-note: if you want to see a movie really shot in one long, unbroken shot – not something pieced together after the fact – check out 2002’s Russian Ark, which really was filmed in one long take via Steadicam).
The featurette above has Mendes, Roger Deakins, and other behind-the-scenes folks talking about how they created 1917‘s one-take look, and I have to admit, it has me far more interested in the film than I was before. I originally chalked this one up to being just another war movie, but the idea of watching it all unfold in one take – in the skilled hands of Roger Deakins – sounds neat. Sure, you could write this whole thing off as a gimmick. But there’s nothing wrong with a gimmick if it ends up working.“I felt this movie should be told in real time,” Mendes says in the featurette. “Every step of the journey, breathing every breath with these men felt integral and there is no better way to tell this story than with one continuous shot.”
1917 opens in limited release on December 25, 2019 and wide on January 10, 2020.
Here's a short sneak into the story:
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. 1917 is directed by Sam Mendes, who wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (Showtime’s Penny Dreadful).
Watch the 'Behind the Scenes' of 1971