1917 – Blu-ray Review
Film Title: 1917
Release Date: 2019
Runtime: 119 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Audio Formats: Dolby Atmos
Aspect Ratio(s): 2.39:1
Version Reviewed: Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 3/24/20
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch
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Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full Blu-ray Tech Specs at bottom
“1917” was a 2019 film that was co-written and directed by Sam Mendes, best known for also directing other films such as “American Beauty” (1999), “Road to Perdition” (2002), “Jarhead” (2005), “Revolutionary Road” (2008), “Away We Go” (2009), as well as two of the recent “007” / “James Bond” films “Skyfall” (2012), and “Spectre” (2015).
The story of the film was slightly based on a basic premise Sam Mendes’ grandfather once told him about serving in World War I as a messenger. Mendes’ grandfather while in the military during the war was picked for that job because of his height, to be able to run along the trenches without being spotted by the enemy. Sam Mendes co-wrote the screenplay to the film along with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, best known for her writing on the final season of the TV series “Penny Dreadful” (2014-2016).
The story and plot here basically involves these two young British soldiers “Lance Corporal Blake” (Dean-Charles Chapman) and “Lance Corporal Schofield” (George MacKay) that are given a daunting task on the front lines, to be specific, right in the trenches. They have to cross the enemy’s territory to deliver a message, and it’s a very important message: one that will save the lives of other soldiers about to be attacked. You’ll get some great small supporting role performances here from the likes of Colin Firth, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
1917 is one very unique war film and proves to be incredible in terms of both its story and of its amazing visual storytelling as well as style. It, as a film, comes as very highly recommended. This is one of the great films that you would expect from a director with a career as impressive as Sam Mendes.
Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)
“1917” on its debut to Blu-ray is presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, just as it was shown during its theatrical run. This comes on a BD-50 (50 gigabytes dual-layered) Blu-ray Disc. To get rather a bit technical for a moment here, the film itself is using 35.8 gigabytes itself out of the 44.49 GB total used entirely on the disc.
This was shot digitally in 4.5K resolution using the Arri Alexa Mini LF camera and then received a 4K digital intermediate master. It’s certainly worth noting that they mention in the bonus materials that this was the very first film to be shot on the Arri Alexa Mini LF camera. Roger Deakins, the director of photography, seemed to be absolutely enthusiastic about using this camera, as you can tell from the bonus materials (detailed much further below). It also was a great challenge to shoot the film in one-shot scenarios for scenes, as I’ll discuss more a bit further below. First, though, I’d suggest you read the latter half of this article over at American Cinematographer magazine which includes an interview with Roger Deakins.
NOTE: Keep in mind that the article I’ve linked to above was about two films he worked as DP on, and this happens to be the second. So, you’ll want to scroll halfway through the article or so until you see an image from this film to be reading specifically regarding this film.
This film features impeccable, jaw-dropping detail in every single shot, and even presented in just 1080p HD this still manages to look stellar. 1917 on Blu-ray is absolutely reference material for any HD or 4K display. I can only imagine how impressive this must look in 4K with the addition of HDR. For now, though, this Blu-ray will do more than fine for anyone who isn’t capable of 4K UHD Blu-ray playback. There’s not one dull moment here, visually, in this almost two-hour film. It’s just beautiful in terms of cinematography and the sheer abundance of detail, as mentioned.
The black level is solid here, especially apparent during a few darker scenes. The flesh tones come across as accurate as possible and the color palette as well, without the addition of HDR (high dynamic range) that 4K has. This visually doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of compression for an almost two-hour film either.
There is a true living master of cinematography and that for sure, more and more, film-by-film, I’ve learned to realize is none other than Roger Deakins. With 1917, as DP, he delivers some of the most spectacular and hard-hitting visual composition that I can truly remember seeing in years. The one-shot scenes here are a spectacular sight to behold as things switch between a crane shot, to a handheld, back to the camera gliding on a wire, say then a handheld, and finally, to then a camera mounted on a vehicle or such – just as an example. It’s something that you will see in the bonus materials (extras) and then should truly appreciate how much professionalism and technology went into making this all come together, in the end looking ever so beautiful.
Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Audio here, on the Blu-ray of 1917, is presented in Dolby Atmos sound – with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core for those not capable of fully decoding the audio format.
This starts up relatively nice at first, starting to focus on the dialogue which is delivered distinctly through the center channel. Things start to build up a bit 8 minutes in, adding more bass, rear channel and height channel use with sound effects and the original score (composed by Thomas Newton) – getting primarily driven from the front (left and right channels). 8 minutes pass and at around 17 minutes in things start to really intensify to a level that will leave you feeling right smack dab in the middle of the action and feeling it as well, many thanks to the subwoofer and monstrous bass.
Later on, a good bit over halfway through the film, the sound of distant gunshots get represented via the front and height channel speakers and echo throughout the rears. It is downright intense and comes across audibly as threatening as distant incoming gunshots should. It will keep you very much on edge here, especially in scenes like that one. It’s making brilliant use of this new lossless object-based format and the addition of height channel speakers with scenes like that especially.
1 hour and 28 minutes in, you’ll notice the sound of wind being heavily driven from the height speakers and fully making benefit of this Dolby Atmos mix. It’s very cool to hear it eventually make its way to the rear channels, leaving you feeling fully immersed by the winds of the forest. This is pure “demo material” in terms of audio and absolutely does this film justice, and is actually something to test out or show off your home theater’s sound system and the Dolby Atmos format – with height speakers. That all being said, this earns every bit of a perfect 5 rating for audio quality.
Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release, are presented in HD video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.
A DVD of the film in standard definition with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is included.
A Digital Copy of the film is included which is redeemable via Movies Anywhere, so you’ll be able to get it on a service such as iTunes, Vudu, and such. However, once you do redeem it, it is presented in HD (1080p) the same as here on the Blu-ray Disc. That seems a tad bit odd, considering the film is available in 4K on Vudu and iTunes for purchase? I just felt that it was worth mentioning to the consumer. This also includes the same extras as listed below via iTunes Extras for example. NOW! This is important. You’ll want to flip that paper insert over, as it actually includes a code for a FREE MOVIE from the folks at Universal. Yes, you read that correctly. So, if you’ve already thrown your paper insert away you just threw away a free digital copy of a film from Universal’s library of motion pictures. NOTE: This offer on the paper is said to end on 8/10/2020. So, act fast!! It is worth mentioning that I actually couldn’t get this extra (free movie) offer to redeem, at the time of writing this review, but I assume it will work but the time this Blu-ray is available to consumers.
The bonus materials that are on the Blu-ray Disc include:
- Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Sam Mendes
- Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Roger Deakins
- The Weight of the World: Sam Mendes (4:29 – HD) focuses on how this film is personal to the film’s director. Mendes’ grandfather served in World War I, and he told his grandson [Sam] a story that slightly inspired this story itself. It is comprised of scenes from the film, behind-the-scenes footage and most importantly interviews with Sam Mendes p.g.a. (director/co-writer/producer), Krysty Wilson-Cairns (co-writer), Pippa Harris p.g.a (producer), Dennis Gassner (production designer), George MacKay (“Lance Corporal Schofield”), Dean-Charles Chapman (“Lance Corporal Blake”), and Roger Deakins ASC, BSC (director of photography).
- Allied Forces: Making 1917 (12:01 – HD) is your typical “making of” featurette that includes lots of behind-the-scenes footage, mostly on set, as well as interviews with Sam Mendes p.g.a. (director/co-writer/producer), Roger Deakins ASC, BSC (director of photography), Krysty Wilson-Cairns (co-writer), Michael Lerman (co-producer/first assistant director), Callum McDougall p.g.a. (producer), Pippa Harris p.g.a. (producer), Dean-Charles Chapman (“Lance Corporal Blake”), Charlie Rizek (Trinity camera operator), George MacKay (“Lance Corporal Schofield”), Peter Cavaciuti (Steadicam operator), Jayne-Anne Tenggren p.g.a. (producer).
- The Music of 1917 (3:52 – HD) focuses on the original music composed for the film, offering you glimpses at the recording sessions of the orchestras performing the score, as well as interviews with Sam Mendes p.g.a. (director/co-writer/producer), Pippa Harris p.g.a. (producer), Thomas Newman (composer), and Jayne-Anne Tenggren p.g.a. (producer).
- In The Trenches (6:59 – HD) focuses on the cast. This includes behind-the-scenes footage, on set, as well as interviews with Sam Mendes p.g.a. (director/co-writer/producer), Pippa Harris p.g.a. (producer), George MacKay (“Lance Corporal Schofield”), Dean-Charles Chapman (“Lance Corporal Blake”), and Jayne-Anne Tenggren p.g.a. (producer).
- Recreating History (10:25 – HD) focuses on recreating scenery of the time period be it via set pieces, wardrobe, or locations. It includes lots of behind-the-scenes footage, on set, as well as interviews with Dennis Gassner (production designer), Sam Mendes p.g.a. (director/co-writer/producer), Dean-Charles Chapman (“Lance Corporal Blake”), Michael Lerman (co-producer/first assistant director), Roger Deakins ASC, BSC (director of photography), Elaine Kusmishko (art director), George MacKay (“Lance Corporal Schofield”), Callum McDougall p.g.a. (producer), Lee Sandales (set decorator), Krysty Wilson-Cairns (co-writer), and Lindsay Powell (location manager).
Overall, you get five featurettes that total up to roughly around 39 minutes in length (runtime) and there are these two excellent audio commentary tracks by the director/co-writer/producer Sam Mendes and the DP (director of photography) Roger Deakins.
Bonus Materials Rating: 3.25 (out of 5)
“1917” is one very unique war film, and about World War I, not at all really the one depicted most on film in recent years. Sam Mendes put together one very nice bit of storytelling here based on a simple premise his grandfather gave him a tiny bit to go with, and he ran with it – pun intended. He took that idea and along with a screenwriting partner put it together. Then, he worked extremely detailed in prepping the shooting pattern with one of the most talented cinematographers out there with Roger Deakins (director of photography) in some of the most spectacular one-shot scenes you’ve ever seen in a motion picture.
I will not get into the detail about the film’s plot and cast here, as that could potentially contain some spoilers, which I have no plans of dishing out. I will just say that it offers some amazing performances from everyone involved, especially the two lead actors. It’s a film that really did merit all 10 Academy Award nominations that it received and inevitably the 3 Oscars that it won – including Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound Mixing. There’s no wonder it also, at the time of writing, still maintains a “Certified Fresh” rating over at Rotten Tomatoes.
This visually is one jaw-dropping presentation, here in just 1080p high definition on the Blu-ray release. There’s such a sharp amount of detail, the color palette, while subdued to fit the visual style, manages to have some true vibrance at times thanks to the scenic backdrops. It’s some very impressive HD from 4K source material and sure to leave anyone pleased in terms of the video presentation and quality.
The Dolby Atmos mix here which is found also on the 4K UHD Blu-ray is one very impressive piece of “demo material” that starts out a bit slowly building itself up to one magnificent peak in terms of sound effects and the original musical score. Dialogue is delivered as distinct as you’d expect for a war film and manages to never miss a beat. The amount of bass represented via the subwoofer is pretty damn intense and the use of height speakers and rear channels also manage to keep you right on the edge and feeling really almost right there.
Now, in terms of the bonus materials, you get a great set of extras that are short and right to the point and come with two excellent audio commentary tracks from the director (Sam Mendes) and the director of photography (Roger Deakins). Plus, you get the free digital copy of another Universal film if you choose to take advantage of that offer, as an added extra here. So, it’s 5 featurettes totaling up to 39 minutes roughly and the audio commentary tracks. It’s really a pretty decent set of extras for a film like but I feel like there is some room for perhaps improvement only in the sense of more to be added on something like an anniversary edition release later down the line.
Overall, as a film and in terms of the quality: It comes at exactly 1 hour and 8 minutes into the film, visually and in terms of audio, that 1917 on Blu-ray will have you realizing it achieves every bit of perfection in both video and audio quality. This film on Blu-ray is downright impressive and shows that this format is still capable of one whole hell of a lot. Wow! This comes as one Very Highly Recommended Blu-ray release. I will end by saying that I have to be 100% honest here, to you the consumer, and suggest maybe you opt for the 4K UHD Blu-ray instead – if you’re capable of 4K playback. The reason for that has to be because it was shot in 4.5K resolution and mastered in 4K.
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
3.25 (out of 5) for bonus materials