The Best War Epic Is Streaming Online For Free

Sam Mendes' World War I epic 1917 is streaming on Freevee.

By Joshua Jones | Published

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One of the most celebrated war movies in recent years is now available for streaming. According to Flix Patrol, director Sam Mendes’ War World I film 1917 is currently rated #7 on Freevee’s top 10 charts. The epic was released in theaters on Christmas 2019, eventually earning a staggering $384 million off a comparatively small $90 million budget.

Sam Mendes’ war epic is partially inspired by stories the director was told about his paternal grandfather Alfred and his service in the first World War. The story takes place after the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. The real-life Operation Alberich serves as the backdrop to 1917. World War I is depicted comparatively little in modern cinema compared to World War II or the Vietnam War, which makes 1917 that much more unique.

1917

Much of the film focuses on actor George MacKay’s Lance Corporal William “Will” Schofield and his mission to deliver an important message to call off an attack by the British. In addition to MacKay, 1917 also stars Mark Strong and Colin Firth. Doctor Strange actor Benedict Cumberbatch is revealed as Lieutenant- Colonel Mackenzie at the end.

One of the more impressive aspects of 1917 is the use of one continuous shot. Veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins (known for beautifully composed films like The Shawshank Redemption, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and Blade Runner 2049, with an impressive two Academy Award wins and fifteen nominations) discussed the technical achievement during an interview with Mashable. Filming for the war epic was accomplished with continuous long takes and elaborately choreographed moving camera shots, similar to acclaimed scenes in the Netflix Marvel Cinematic Universe show Daredevil or the Park Chan-Wook psychological thriller Oldboy.

While it appears the entire movie is one continuous shot, the story actually cuts to black right around the one-hour, six-minute mark. Deakins explained that the cut was due to him wanting the film to go from afternoon to dusk and then from night into dawn. The time of day had a significant impact on production of 1917, being particularly important to maintain continuity in the strict confines of the cinematic conceit.

1917 was also the first film shot with the Arri Alexa Mini LF digital camera, itself a major breakthrough in modern digital cinema. Deakins wanted to use the camera with a large format image sensor; however, he thought the weight of the original Alexa LF would be an issue. Arri provided him with a prototype of the Mini LF weeks before shooting, which shows the kind of clout and respect both Roger Deakins and Sam Mendes have in the industry.

1917

The film was formatted for IMAX at the expanded ratio of 1:9:1. Filming for 1917’s climax scene, known as the “Schofield Run, ” reportedly took two days to shoot. When discussing the scene, actor George MacKay said Mendes gave him a note about the different emotions he felt. The result can be clearly seen in the intense, emotional, yet thrilling sequence.

According to Mendes, while the “Schofield Run” is understandably filled with tension, there’s “almost a euphoria in it as well.” During one of the takes, MacKay knocked into two extras acting as soldiers mid-run (which likely will be a story for them to tell for the rest of time). The moment wasn’t something that was scripted; however, it made it to the finish cut of 1917, much as similar moments like Viggo Mortenson breaking his toe in The Fellowship of the Ring or Tom Cruise breaking his ankle and continuing to run in one of the Mission: Impossible films.

When discussing the mishap, MacKay said that once the collision happened, “it felt inevitable.” It wasn’t until cameras stopped rolling that the actor began to feel the importance the scene would go on to have on audiences watching 1917 for the first time. MacKay described the entire scene as a “reflection of the entire film” and admitted that he got emotional after seeing the finish cut for the first time.

The technical achievements and story led 1917 to gain many awards after its release in theaters. It received ten nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, including winning for Best Cinematography. The National Board of Review and the American Film Institute named the film one of the year’s top ten films.