Director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins are not throwing away their shot. They’d better not because they’ve only got the one. The Oscar-winning filmmakers came to New York Comic Con on Thursday, October 3, to discuss their new film “1917,” a World War I drama that they remarkably shot in one continuous take. They also premiered a new trailer for the film: watch it above, and scroll down to see Mendes and Deakins talk about the upcoming movie along with stars Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay.
“The movie is set in two hours of one day in the spring of 1917,” Mendes explained. The young men played by Chapman and MacKay have to deliver an urgent message meant to stop 1,600 of their fellow soldiers from walking into a deadly trap. “And the movie, as you know, takes place in just two hours and in one unbroken shot.” Mendes buried the lede there, and that last detail elicited gasps from the audience gathered at the AMC Theater on 34th Street.
“Really?” Deakins had said incredulously when he found out Mendes’s plan for the production. Deakins is a veteran behind the camera with 14 Oscar nominations under his belt and a win for “Blade Runner 2049” (2017), so if a director takes him by surprise, that’s really saying something. “Quite honestly, I said to Sam when I first read it, ‘Is it a gimmick?’ But it’s not. It’s absolutely integral to the story. I hope that when you watch the film you won’t be aware that it’s one shot. It’s just this immersive experience.”
“It was hard work. We did months and months of training,” said Chapman, who may best be known for his role as doomed King Tommen on “Game of Thrones.” “You’ve got to be so technically aware,” added MacKay, whose previous film roles include “Pride” (2014) and “Captain Fantastic” (2016). “I remember Sam, when we got to the end of the shoot saying, ‘You’re going to have to level with the fact that you’ll never be this fit again.”
Co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns might have summed it up best when she explained what it was like undertaking a one-take war movie: “constantly bat-shit crazy.” You can see it for yourself when the film opens in December.
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