Sam Mendes found shooting 1917 unnerving

  • Bang Showbiz
  • 5 January 2020
Sam Mendes

Sam Mendes

'1917' director Sam Mendes admits that it was "unnerving" shooting the film in a single-take format

Sam Mendes admits that it was "unnerving" filming '1917' as a continuous take.

The 2019 epic war movie – which stars Andrew Scott and Benedict Cumberbatch – was filmed using a single-take format and the director admits that it was a real challenge to adapt to the risks of shooting without stopping.

Asked how it felt, he said: "Unnerving is a good word. Every day, you felt, 'If I f*** up, there's no way out.' But once you've made that mental shift – and it was part of my brain I'm used to using from theatre, where you rehearse for two-and-a-half months and then say, 'Alright, see you in two-and-a-half hours, and we'll talk about how it went.'

"So that was trying to use that theatre brain, which judges rhythm and tempo without editing. But, yeah, there were many days where I would say, 'Why?'"

The 54-year-old director admitted that he felt a "huge" sense of achievement when completing the film.

Mendes said: "The sense of achievement when you have it is huge. You immediately erase the feelings of negativity and self harm that come with the choice."

The 'Spectre' filmmaker also believes there would have been more single-take films in the past, had the technology been available.

He added: "One unbroken shot is how we experience the world. It's editing that had become the accepted grammar of film, but in life, editing is the gimmick, not one shot. One shot is very difficult to achieve, but I do think (if) we had digital cameras that we could hold in the palm of our hand 100 years ago, you might have seen a few more movies like this."


  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • UK / US
  • 1h 57min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Sam Mendes
  • Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch
  • UK release: 10 January 2020

Lance Corporals Schofield (MacKay) and Blake (Chapman) are given the job of hand-delivering a message to another unit, across the mud and misery of the trenches. It suffers from simplistic dialogue and flat characterisation, but it’s visually impressive and a respectable, heartfelt tribute to the sacrifice of WWI.