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Sam Mendes' 1917 takes the war movie genre into new territory with astonishing effect

  • Video report by ITV News Arts Editor Nina Nannar

It is not often the filmmaking technique dominates conversation about a new movie. But director Sam Mendes' audacious telling of a World War One story, 1917, is such a film.

Choosing to do it so it appears as one long shot, done in one take, the action continual and the camera taking us along with each step of the two main protagonists, was a complex and time consuming project.

Every second of filming had to be meticulously worked out, rehearsed again and again, with nearly a mile of trenches built to accommodate the action.

Renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins even had to build a new camera to facilitate some of the scenes - this was a war movie taking the genre into new territory.

With astonishing effect.

Director Sam Mendes (left) thanks cast members on the set of his new film 1917 at Govan Docks in Glasgow. Credit: PA

The film is inspired by a story told to the young Mendes by his grandfather Alfred, who was awarded a Military Medal after he volunteered for a dangerous mission to locate injured soldiers scattered across No Mans Land during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. From this, Mendes has co-written a story about two young soldiers played by relative newcomers George Mackay and Dean-Charles Chapman, who are sent on a mission across trenches and No Mans Land, to deliver a message to another regiment to prevent a massacre by the Germans.

It does have a stellar cast - Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth - but their roles are fleeting, this is about the two young leads.

Cast and crew attending the 1917 World Premiere at Leicester Square in London. Credit: PA

The film is tense, like watching a thriller, and I wasn't the only person in the audience on the edge of my seat, clasping my hands at times of tragedy and horror.

Mendes has employed his long time collaborator Thomas Newman to supply the music and it works to phenomenal effect.

But perhaps greatest praise must go to the filmmaking team who realised the story in such an innovative and powerful way. It's quite unlike any war film I've seen and it is little wonder that Mendes is being touted as an Oscar nominee. He surely won't be the only member of the 1917 team, to be saluted.

1917 is released in the UK on January 10th.