Sam Mendes' Real-Time WWI Film 1917 Has Screened, Here Are The Intense Early Reactions

1917 trailer shot of soldiers

Sam Mendes' World War I film 1917 just screened, and it's epic -- not in length, but in ambition and impact. The movie runs at just under two hours, but it's presented in real-time and plays as one continuous shot. With the great Roger Deakins as director of photography, it's no surprise early viewers of 1917 were blown away.

In 1917, at the heart of WWI, 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. As the trailer noted, time is the enemy here.

Several critics got to see 1917 on Saturday, November 23 in New York, and while some expressed initial skepticism about the "one-take" idea, they were won over by the movie itself:

Yes, there's a lot of praise for Roger Deakins, but also for the music by Thomas Newman and the performances by the two lead actors. You'll also see several comparisons to Saving Private Ryan and The Revenant:

A Christmas release date is a powerhouse date because it suggests Oscars consideration as well as a potential blockbuster. Sometimes that doesn't work out, but it looks like 1917 may at least be a major awards contender:

The World War II movie Midway just had a surprise (I guess?) win at the box office but I'm glad Hollywood is finally making time for a greater focus on World War I. Between Sam Mendes' 1917 and Peter Jackson's recent World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, the First World War is now having something of a cinematic moment.

1917 is Sam Mendes' follow-up to two Bond films -- Skyfall and Spectre. Mendes told Vanity Fair why he wanted to tell a real-time battlefield story:

It was fundamentally an emotional choice. I wanted to travel every step with these men—to breathe every breath with them. It needed to be visceral and immersive. What they are asked to do is almost impossibly difficult. The way the movie is made is designed to bring you as close as possible to that experience.

1917 was directed by Sam Mendes and co-written by Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, based in part on an account told to Mendes by his paternal grandfather, Alfred Mendes. The film stars George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, with Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Here's more about the movie to get you ready:

1917 is scheduled to open in theaters in the United States on December 25, 2019, before opening across North America and United Kingdom on January 10, 2020.

Keep up with everything still headed to the big screen this year with our 2019 movie release date schedule. And prepare for a jam-packed new year with our 2020 movie release date schedule.

Gina Carbone

Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.