Excitement spread when it was announced that the Oscar-winning filmmaker Sam Mendes’ return to the big screen to direct the blockbuster World War I film “1917” would be in a partnership with Steven Spielberg’s production company, Amblin Partners, but until recently, details of the plot and cast had been kept under wraps.
That changed today with the release of the film’s first official trailer, and for film nerds and history buffs alike, the wait was overwhelmingly worth it.
Trepidation and pandemonium dominate the two-minute clip, with the opening seconds alone eliciting chills as soldiers with bayonets at the ready meander through a complex, dimly lit tunnel maze, quietly gliding by personal items belonging to enemy that serve as humanizing reminders of the emotional complexities of war.
The plot of “1917," which Steven Spielberg called “hugely daring and ambitious,” follows George McKay (“Captain Fantastic”) and Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen Baratheon on HBO’s “Game of Thrones”) through a number of such apocalyptic hellscapes of the Western Front.
Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game,” “Doctor Strange”), Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech,” “Kingsman"), Mark Strong (“The Imitation Game,” “Zero Dark Thirty”), and Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”) round out star-studded cast.
“I couldn’t be happier to be back working with Amblin and Steven Spielberg again," Mendes told Variety last year. "I’ve been working on this script for over a year, so it’s very exciting to start making the movie itself a reality.”
Mendes (“Road to Perdition," “Skyfall,” “American Beauty,” ) co-wrote the script alongside Krysty Wilson-Cairns, who worked with Mendes on the Showtime series, “Penny Dreadful.”
Award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins is lending his expertise to the endeavor, and it shows in the aforementioned opening sequence, shots that bring to mind the incredible lighting techniques Deakins used to capture the spine-tingling tunnel raid sequence in “Sicario.”
Deakins won the Oscar for best cinematographer on Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049,” and has been nominated for the same award on a number of other films, including “Sicario,” “Prisoners,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Fargo,” and “Shawshank Redemption."
Joining Mendes on the production side of “1917″ is his long-time colleague, Pippa Harris (“Jarhead,” “Revolutionary Road”), and Michael Lerman (“Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” “Doctor Strange”).
World War I has garnered renewed interest following the release of Peter Jackson’s (“Lord of the Rings”) groundbreaking documentary, “They Shall Not Grow Old.”
And based on initial reactions to the trailer, it looks like Mendes is sure to do The Great War justice.
“1917” is set for a limited release Christmas Day before hitting theaters nationwide Jan. 10, 2020.
Watch the trailer below.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.