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1917: why the World War I drama is an Oscars 2020 frontrunner


With comparisons being made to Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, upcoming World War I drama 1917 from director Sam Mendes is already looking like a major awards frontrunner.

Some are even calling it the best war film since Saving Private Ryan, so we’re taking a look at why it could clean up at the 2020 Oscars…

1. It's directed by Sam Mendes

Director Sam Mendes has proved to be a formidable force in the film world with films including Revolutionary Road (2008), Jarhead (2005) and Road to Perdition (2002). H

is directorial debut American Beauty (1999) won five Oscars at the ceremony in 2000, including one for Best Director. Despite not receiving a nomination since, Mendes found further commercial success directing two back-to-back James Bond movies, Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015); the former was widely considered as one of the best 007 movies to date.

Critics are unanimous in their praise for Mendes' direction in 1917, so it’s almost certain that this will land him his second directorial nomination.

2. The score is composed by Thomas Newman

You may not know him by name, but you will certainly recognise some of the scores from this incredible composer. His credits include The Green Mile (1999), WALL-E (2008), Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016).

And, in fact, he and Sam Mendes have worked together many times before with Newman providing the soundtracks for American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, Skyfall and Spectre. Clearly, Thomas Newman is Sam Mendes’ go to guy, and with this many amazing and iconic scores under his belt, it isn’t hard to see why.

Newman has been nominated for a whopping 14 Oscars, but amazingly has never won. The Academy often likes to reward those who are long overdue an award, and it is hard to think of anyone more deserving than Thomas Newman. With the score for 1917 providing the perfect emotional and tense atmosphere, hopefully it will be one making waves come awards season.

3. The cinematography is by Roger Deakins

Cinematographer’s names wouldn’t usually generate that much excitement, but when that cinematographer is Roger Deakins, it is a whole different story.

Frequent collaborator with the Coen brothers and Denis Villeneuve, Roger Deakins has also worked with Mendes a number of times, most notably on Jarhead, Revolutionary Road, Skyfall and now 1917. It took 14 Oscar nominations for Deakins to finally win, and he took home the prize in 2018 for his incredible work on Blade Runner 2049.

1917 is looking like one of those films that will clean up in the “below the line” (i.e. technical) categories, and with the weight of Deakins’ name behind it, the film’s chances of picking up a cinematography nomination are very high indeed.

4. It has an A-list cast

Of course, while there is much to admire behind the camera, there is also a wealth of talent in front of the camera, and 1917 boasts one of the most impressive casts of any film this year.

The ensemble is led by impressive youngsters George MacKay, who impressed in both Captain Fantastic and Pride, and Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman, who portray two soldiers sent behind enemy lines to prevent a German ambush.

Surrounding them are the A-list likes of Andrew Scott, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Colin Firth and fellow Game of Thrones alumni Richard Madden. While it is often hard for ensemble casts such as this to distinguish lead and supporting nominations at the Oscars, it is highly likely that the film will pick up nominations and awards at the Screen Actors Guild awards and the Critics Choices awards, which have special categories for Best Ensemble.

5. The editing is already making waves

In order to truly gauge a film’s potential success at the Oscars, you need to look in the technical categories as well as the more high profile best picture, actor and director fields.

The editing work of Lee Smith for 1917 has already got people talking with early reviews praising it as a remarkable technical feat. The film is shot and edited to appear as one single long take, giving the impression that the events take place in real time. It's the kind of pioneering work we've come to expect from Smith, who's regularly collaborated with Christopher Nolan on the likes of Inception, Dunkirk and The Dark Knight.

Given that this is an incredibly difficult thing to try and pull of successfully, it will be a travesty if Smith does not receive some recognition for this. All will be revealed on the 9th of February 2020…

1917 is released in Cineworld cinemas on the 10th of January 2020. Let us know @Cineworld if you think the movie will triumph at the Oscars.

Sarah Buddery is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.