After 14 Academy Award nominations for Best Achievement in Cinematography, the legendary and long-overdue Roger Deakins finally won his first trophy for filming Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049.” Deakins’ first Oscar win happened in 2018, and he could very well pick up his second trophy in February 2020 for his impressive-looking work on the upcoming World War I thriller “1917.” The drama reunites Deakins with filmmaker Sam Mendes. The collaborators have worked together on films such as “Jarhead” and “Skyfall,” which earned Deakins an Oscar nomination.
Like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope” and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Birdman” before it, the majority of “1917” has been shot to appear as one single take. Deakins has never attempted such an ambitious cinematography feat, nor has a one-take movie ever been applied to the battlefields of World War I. If Deakins can deliver what sounds, on paper, like an extraordinary thrill ride, then he will no doubt be an awards contender this season. Don’t forget — the one-take illusion of “Birdman” landed Emmanuel Lubezki an Oscar.
“1917” stars rising actors George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman (a “Game of Thrones” breakout for playing Tommen Baratheon) as two young British soldiers who are given a mission to cross into enemy territory in order to deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers. The supporting cast includes U.K. acting heavyweights Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Madden, and Andrew Scott.
“It was fundamentally an emotional choice,” Mendes told Vanity Fair this month about the single-take approach. “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.”
Universal Pictures will open “1917” in theaters December 25. The movie is one of the studio’s major awards hopefuls this year, along with Jordan Peele’s “Us,” which opened way back in March but was a box-office slam dunk, and “Queen & Slim,” which is world-premiering on the opening night of AFI FEST 2019. Watch the official trailer for “1917” in the video below.