Netflix movie of the day: 1917 is a war thriller with a twist

George MacKay stands among explosive chaos in 1917
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)
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1917’s concept feels like it was based on the idea of ‘what if Saving Private Ryan was even more intense because you're trapped within each scene’. Famously shot like it’s all one very long take (it’s not, but it’s an impressive feat of filmmaking anyway), 1917 doesn’t offer you the chance to distance yourself from the brutality of war through the language of film editing; you don’t get to cut to a long shot after an explosion to take in what’s happening. You have to just work your way through the chaos of the moment the same way the characters do. And so for us, as much as the characters, the quiet, safe and intimate moments are so much more impactful. It’s a unique option among the best Netflix movies in this way.

1917 - Official Trailer [HD] - YouTube 1917 - Official Trailer [HD] - YouTube
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The faux one-take cinematography isn’t quite as strict as you might think. It actually has a full on fade to black and a time shift at one point, so really it’s two faux takes, anyway. But much like how everyone says Mad Max: Fury Road is all one long car chase – but when you watch it, it actually has lengthy quiet and still moments because you need some recovery time – 1917 is one long take with plenty of slow moments to chill and take stock, even if they still don’t break the one-take immersion.

It follows a couple of soldiers in World War I, who are tasked with taking an urgent message out of the trenches to warn a British battalion (which includes the brother of one of the soldiers) that they're walking into a trap.

There’s a kind of surreality to how quickly they find some idyllic-seeming farmsteads right next to the locations of the trench and No Man’s Land. Whether this is a fudge for the sake of the one-take structure or an accurate depiction of the industry of war spread across European pastures doesn’t really matter – it means something here specifically. It’s an oasis just a short distance from the nightmare, but accessible only through a whole second level of nightmare. But it’s an oasis, not a haven – when you take quiet moments in war, war will find you before long, and 1917 pulls no punches.

As the story continues, if becomes a kind of odyssey, travelling by road, crawling in a battle with a sniper, struggling through a besieged town – you’re committed to seeing these soldiers to the end, but we all know the death toll of World War I, and the intensity of the movie so far, so we all know it’s not likely.

But damn, is it work finding out for yourself.

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Matt Bolton
Managing Editor, Entertainment

Matt is TechRadar's Managing Editor for Entertainment, meaning he's in charge of persuading our team of writers and reviewers to watch the latest TV shows and movies on gorgeous TVs and listen to fantastic speakers and headphones. It's a tough task, as you can imagine. Matt has over a decade of experience in tech publishing, and previously ran the TV & audio coverage for our colleagues at, and before that he edited T3 magazine. During his career, he's also contributed to places as varied as Creative Bloq, PC Gamer, PetsRadar, MacLife, and Edge. TV and movie nerdism is his speciality, and he goes to the cinema three times a week. He's always happy to explain the virtues of Dolby Vision over a drink, but he might need to use props, like he's explaining the offside rule.