Sam Mendes, director and co-writer of 1917, dedicated this film to his Trinidadian grandfather Alfred Mendes, who fought in World War I. In fact, director Mendes based the film's plot on the stories his grandfather used to tell him when he was young about being a messenger during the war. In an interview with NPR, Mendes said, "It wasn't until his mid-70s that he decided he was going to tell the stories of what happened to him when he was in his teenage years. And there was one particular story he told us of being tasked to carry a single message through no man's land in dusk in the winter of 1916. He was a small man, and they used to send him with messages because he ran 5 1/2 feet, and the mist used to hang at about 6 feet in no man's land, so he wasn't visible above the mist. And that stayed with me. And that was the story I found I wanted to tell."
Mendes and his cinematographer Roger Deakins worked hard to do long takes that gave the impression of two continuous takes. Filming took place between April and June of 2019 in Wiltshire, Hankley Common, Govan, and in a studio. Other than a moment in which Schofield is knocked unconscious about halfway through the film, there are no discernible cuts.
Mendes was praised for his work on the film, and Roger Deakins won an Academy Award for his cinematography. Mendes won the Golden Globe for Best Director. In his review of the film for The Times (UK), Kevin Maher wrote, "Sam Mendes delivers the film of his career by mashing up the survivalist thrills of The Revenant with the helter-skelter mayhem of a shoot’em’up video game, and setting it during the Great War. The resulting two hours of amphetamine-rush cinema is both a monumental technical achievement and, instantly, an Oscar-night frontrunner."