Sam Mendes’ breathtaking new epic, 1917, is nominated for ten Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, and won the Golden Globe for Best Picture drama and the Producers Guild of America award for Outstanding Producer of a Theatrical Motion Picture.
MPC Film was proud to lead the visual-effects work on 1917, with approximately 600 artists contributing to the film, which was shot almost entirely outdoors on locations around the United Kingdom.
At the height of the First World War, two young British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic’s George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) are given a seemingly impossible mission. In a race against time, they must cross enemy territory and deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers—Blake’s own brother among them.
In this immersive cinematic experience, Mendes thrusts the audience into the immediate peril and vast scale of World War I, witnessing the conflict in an urgent and propulsive way. The film is told in real time and plays as one continuous shot. To execute Mendes’ groundbreaking, innovative vision required intensive planning and collaboration across multiple departments, in particular camera, production design, sound, special effects and visual effects.
MPC employed multiple digital techniques to make the stitches in the film invisible; from simple wipes to complex digital double takeovers. A few sequences also required significant digital-environment work, including No Man’s Land, the canal crossing, the burning village of Écoust and Schofield’s jump into the river. In addition to the digital environments, MPC also created character and vehicle animation, destruction, pyro and water effects.
The plane crash utilized multiple techniques, including plate stitching, CG planes, and CG destruction. The burning city of Écoust was shot on a partial set on a backlot. CG destroyed-architecture and fire effects were then added to extend the scale and the scope of the burning city. The River sequence was shot in an Olympic water park in order to get practical direct water interaction with Schofield as he is swept down the rapids. In the finished film the rapids were extended and augmented by MPC to set the scene in a hostile natural environment. Shot stitches were particularly complicated as the blends had to work with water surface and splashes as well as complex effects simulations.
Because the production employed long, uninterrupted takes, creating visual effects that held up to scrutiny, without cuts, across unbroken scenes and in 4K IMAX, presented MPC with unique creative and logistical challenges.