Time is the enemy in the first trailer for Sam Mendes' WW1 epic '1917'

Tom Butler
Senior Editor

Skyfall director Sam Mendes’s new film 1917 looks set to do for The Great War what Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk did for World War II.

The comparison is easy to make following the release of the first trailer for the film (watch it above) with its ticking clock, drained colour palette, and emphasis on the the futility of fate.

Directed by Sam Mendes, who wrote the screenplay with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, 1917 stars George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman as a pair of Tommys on the front line, who are tasked with an impossible mission by Colin Firth’s General figure.

George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman as Schofield and Blake. (eOne)

Also starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Richard Madden, Andrew Scott, and Daniel Mays, Mendes has assembled an all-star cast for the film which - if rumours are to be believed - could take place over one long unbroken shot, much like Alejandro Iñárritu’s Oscar-winning Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Read more: Nolan’s Tenet to have palindromic structure?

Although actually stitched together from a number of long takes, Birdman was met with universal acclaim and hailed as “an ambitious technical showcase”, winning Best Picture at the 2015 Academy Awards.

Benedict Cumberbatch returns to the milieu of the Great War once again following appearances in War Horse and Parade's End. (eOne)

Here’s the synopsis, courtesy of eOne: 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.

Read more: First look at 1917

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.

It sounds like a cross between Saving Private Ryan and Dunkirk, which isn’t bad company to be in.

Colin Firth is briefly glimpsed in the first 1917 trailer. (eOne)

This is Sam Mendes’ first feature film as a director since his brace of Bond films Skyfall and Spectre were released in 2012 and 2015 respectively.

The film’s production caused a spot of bother earlier this year when it filmed on Salisbury Plain. Conservationists in Wiltshire feared filming of the wartime blockbuster would disturb archaeological sites near Stonehenge.

Phil Sheldrake, conservation officer for the RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), also said an assessment needed to be done into the impact on the endangered Stone Curlew, which lives in the area.

It’s not clear if either dispute was cleared up before the shoot took place.

eOne will release 1917 in UK and Irish cinemas 10 January, 2020.