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Blu-ray Review: 1917

March 24, 2020

By John Corrado

Sam Mendes’ 1917 was not only one of the finest movies of 2019 but also one of the year’s most technically brilliant, with the entire film assembled to appear as a single take, putting us in the trenches right alongside two young soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) in World War I. The film is now available to watch digitally, and is being released on Blu-ray this week.

The film was up for ten Oscars last month, including Best Picture. It even seemed like the frontrunner for a little bit, and would have been a respectable choice too, had it not been competing against the eventual winner Parasite, with this being the first year that the top prize finally went to an international film.

But 1917 still took home a trio of much deserved trophies in below the line categories for its sound mixing, visual effects and cinematography, with cinematographer Roger Deakins winning his second Oscar for his stunning and absolutely flawless work. In addition to its first rate merits as a superb technical achievement, the film itself is thrilling, dramatically satisfying, and carried by excellent performances, adding up to a fully immersive viewing experience. For more on the film itself, my full review of 1917 can be found right here.

The Blu-ray also includes a pair of feature commentary tracks, the first with Mendes and the second with Deakins, as well as five featurettes. First up, The Weight of the World: Sam Mendes features the director and co-writer talking about basing the story on his own grandfather’s experiences in WWI. Next is Allied Forces: Making 1917, which offers an incredible look at Deakins’ cinematography and the amount of planning that went into setting up the shots and figuring out the geography of the locations so the entire film could be stitched together to look like a single take. We also get to see the different rigs that were used to carry the camera between locations without stopping for long stretches of time.

This is followed by The Score of 1917, which looks at Thomas Newman’s music, and how the composer closely collaborated with the filmmakers throughout the production. Next is In the Trenches, which introduces us to MacKay and Chapman, the two relatively unknown young actors who lead the film, as well as the familiar faces (Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard Madden) who flesh out the cast with their brief supporting roles. Finally, Recreating History features production designer Dennis Gassner talking about scouting outdoor locations and designing sets for the film with period accuracy in mind, including digging over a mile of trenches.

1917 is a Universal Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 119 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: March 24th, 2020

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