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Director Sam Mendes is headed back to cinemas this Christmas with the release of 1917, and the first trailer has been released. 1917 stars George MacKay, recently of the controversial drama Where Hands Touch, and Dean-Charles Chapman, formerly of Game of Thrones, as soldiers in World War 1 in France.
The two young soldiers are tasked with a dreadful assignment; they must cross miles of frontline warfare to get to the position where some 1600 English soldiers are preparing for what they believe will be a secret attack. However, the German's now know the attack is coming and are preparing an ambush.
Our soldier protagonists, MacKay and Chapman, must reach those soldiers before they launch the attack or all 1600 will die. Adding drama to the scenario is the fact that MacKay's soldier has a brother among the 1600 facing certain death unless the message about this ambush is delivered on time. Director Sam Mendes co-wrote the screenplay for 1917 with Krysty Wilson Cairns of Penny Dreadful fame. There is no word on whether the story is based on a true story or not.
1917 is Mendes' first feature film since directing back to back James Bond movies, Skyfall and Spectre, in 2012 and 2015 respectively. Mendes has spent the intervening years working on plays and having recently directed the Jez Butterworth play, The Ferryman on London's West End with plans to bring the play to Broadway in October of 2019.
Mendes' personal life has also been busy during the last few years. After wrapping Skyfall and moving on to the stage, Mendes also got married in January of 2017 to English Trumpet Soloist, Alison Balsom. The couple had a child in September of that year as well. This is a nice upturn for Mendes after his ugly 2013 separation from former wife and Academy Award winning actress Kate Winslet.
Mendes shot to fame in 2001 with his Academy Award winning American Beauty starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. For a first time director, Mendes crafted an early 21st-century classic which may not be aging well, thanks to recent revelations about Spacey's creeptastic personal life, but remains a notable and spectacular debut for the director.
Mendes followed that film with 2002's well received gangster drama Road to Perdition, the divisive Iraq war novel adaptation Jarhead, and the low key and desperately underrated Away We Go in 2009. He also divided audiences by teaming with his then wife Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio for the fiery domestic drama Revolutionary Road, a movie that failed to garner the awards love that so many had predicted in 2008.
Struggling to recapture his momentum as a Hollywood director after Revolutionary Road and Away We Go failed to garner much box office success, Mendes turned to directing blockbusters. Drafted to head up the moribund James Bond franchise, Mendes signed on to shoot back to back Bond features and found box office, if not creative, success with Spectre and Skyfall while battling star Daniel Craig's on again, off-again affection for his signature role.
With Bond in the past, 1917 brings Mendes back to the big screen with a movie that looks exciting and epic. World War 1 stories don't tend to be major box office draws, but there has been a rather notable drought in the world of epic historical fiction lately so, perhaps, there is a niche for Mendes to exploit, especially if 1917 finds appeal among Academy voters.
1917 is arriving in theaters at Christmastimes and it does have the Academy cred of Oscar winner Colin Firth and Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch to go with Mendes' own Academy Award winning resume. Much pressure however, will fall on the young leads, MacKay and Chapman, who will have to carry the weight of the film in a season where finding an audience can be difficult among the tentpole Christmas and Awards season releases.
As for the trailer itself for 1917, it's quite stylish. The catchy story with all of its complexity is well captured in the nearly three minute clip, but the standout is the style with the scene of MacKay running across an active and dangerous battlefield carried forward via the film's tagline, "Time is the Enemy." It's a striking and exceptionally well crafted trailer that definitely grabbed my attention.
1917 arrives in theaters in limited release on Christmas Day and worldwide on January 10, barring any change of heart on the part of the schedulers.