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1917: everything we know about the Sam Mendes war drama

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Prior to the weekend, the first trailer dropped for World War I drama 1917. It's helmed by Skyfall and Spectre director Sam Mendes, and promises a nerve-frazzling look at the devastating war that changed the nature of human conflict forever.

From the cast to the story and the filming itself, here's everything we know so far.

It appears to be channelling Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk

Admittedly Nolan's masterful thriller was set in World War II, but in the two short years since Dunkirk's release it's exerted a powerful influence over the war genre. The film played around with multiple timelines during its examination of the Allied evacuation of Dunkirk in 1943, pushing the politics of the conflict to the background in favour of a visceral look at human survival.

1917 appears to be taking a leaf out of Nolan's book, as two young privates, besieged in the trenches, are tasked with a dangerous mission. They must go seeking out the Second Battalion and prevent the squadron walking into a trap that will lead the deaths of hundreds of men. Making things personal is the fact that one of the soldiers has a brother in the very same battalion.

As with Dunkirk, time is against our two central characters, dictating the very nature of their mission, and whether they anyone will make it out alive. The trailer is accompanied by ticking sound effects a la Hans Zimmer's score for Dunkirk, further accentuating the comparison between the two films.

It's got an all-star cast

Kingsman's Colin Firth and Doctor Strange himself, Benedict Cumberbatch, bring the thespian muscle, as do Kick-Ass's Mark Strong, Sherlock's Andrew Scott and Bodyguard's Richard Madden.

That's already quite the ensemble but the movie is centred around a pair of rising actors. Pride's George MacKay portrays Schofield, one of the two soldiers tasked with sending the critical message, and Game of Thrones actor Dean-Charles Chapman is Blake, whose brother is in the Second Battalion.

It's from Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes

Having made his name on the stage, director Sam Mendes burst onto the movie-making scene in 1999 with American Beauty. One of the most assured debuts in recent film history, this scabrous look at disillusionment in American suburbia won five Oscars, demonstrating Mendes's facility with story and character.

These strengths have since been evident in Tom Hanks period gangster thriller Road to Perdition, and two James Bond movies, Skyfall and Spectre. Skyfall is widely regarded as one of the finest 007 movies to date, exposing the history of Britain's greatest secret agent and deepening his character while delivering all the Bond tropes fans expected.

Given Mendes's confidence with both large-scale set-pieces and complex characterisations, he would appear to be the perfect choice to bring 1917 to life. Mendes reunites with regular collaborators Thomas Newman (composer) and Roger Deakins (cinematographer) with whom he worked on Skyfall, so one imagines the movie will be visually and sonically spectacular.

The movie also showcases Mendes's first screenwriting credit, shared with Krysty Wilson-Cairns who's best known as a writer on Showtime horror series Penny Dreadful.

Filming has taken place in the south of England

In April 2019, Mendes's film began lensing on Salisbury Plain near the historic sight of Stonehenge. Other locations include Hankley Common in the Scottish Highlands, and the famed Shepperton Studios, which houses the 007 stage, was used for interior filming.

Steven Spielberg, through whose company Amblin the movie is being produced, said, "Our company has been a home for Sam since his first film [American Beauty]. I am so happy to have him back here in his old room spinning new stories – especially this hugely daring and ambitious new movie."

"I couldn’t be happier to be back working with Amblin and Steven Spielberg again," said Mendes. "I’ve been working on this script for over a year, so it’s very exciting to start making the movie itself a reality."

That said, filming wasn't without its complications as locals objected to the potential disruption caused near Stonehenge. Filming was set for 35 weeks on ground originally established for military training, and The Guardian reports that 1917's presence led to concerns over the area's archaeological riches.

It's due for release in the middle of Oscar season

Note it down: 1917 is released on 20th January 2020. Watch the trailer below and let us know @Cineworld if you think this could be an awards contender.