As much as I loved so many other movies this year, 1917 might very well be the best movie of 2019. And that is saying a great deal considering the high number of quality films released last year. Set at the height of World War I, two Lance Corporals, Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) are tapped by the powers that be to deliver a message before 8AM the next morning. If they fail, England will suffer a devastating loss, guaranteeing the country’s defeat to the Germans.
The “gimmick” of 1917 which everyone focuses on is the movie is filmed as if it is one long shot. And what a beautiful shot it is. I honestly could go on for paragraphs about the cinematic achievements of this film. You could pause the movie at any moment and it looks like a stunning work of art. The scene where one of the men is making his way through a bombed-out city just before dawn took my breath away.
Last year’s winners for Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins) and Best Film Editing (Lee Smith) both said “hold our beers” and crafted an exceptional looking film with director Sam Mendes. This is not done with the purpose of showing off and winning more awards. The “one-shot” keeps you in the perspective of the protagonists as they endure the pointless and gratuitous death of World War I. You don’t leave their sides. You see what they see and endure it with them. If Deakins and Smith do not win for their respective categories once again, the Academy proves itself to be truly more worthless than it already has in the last couple of decades.
But 1917 doesn’t rest solely on its technical achievements. The larger narrative is “The Great War” and all of its death and destruction. At the center of the movie is Schofield. A man who was chosen by his friend, Blake, to go on this suicide mission. Schofield has already earned a medal for his heroics on the battlefield and is just trying to survive.
MacKay and Chapman are not household names, though 1917 sprinkles in a few cameos from major Hollywood leading men. Casting two relative unknowns was brilliant on Mendes’ part. Their lack of celebrity makes it easy for us as the audience to put ourselves in their shoes. They are the everyman in the first World War. The two actors, Chapman especially, carry the emotional weight of their characters beautifully. You feel their exhaustion, fear, pain, grief, and determination to make it through the end of this to see their families once again.
Mendes’ 1917 might be the magnum opus of a truly talented director’s career. A technical marvel to behold in a theater, yes. (And when I say “in a theater” I mean for the love of the cinema gods, don’t wait until this is released on digital to see it, go to a damn movie theater!) But the film is also a personal journey through the most devastating war in humanity’s history through the eyes of two men in the thick of it.
We here at The Collective are attempting to review all nine of the Best Picture nominees before the Academy Awards air on February 9th. With how short the awards season has been this year, wish us luck to get it done in time. Check out our review for Joker here and keep coming back for more!
The Nerdling was born in the majestic land known as Texas and currently resides there after several years of journeying through Middle Earth in a failed attempt to steal the one Ring from that annoying hobbit, serving the Galactic Empire for a time, and then a short stint as a crew member on the Serenity. Since moving back to her homeland, Nerdling flirted with a hero reputation. Saving children from the dangers of adoring domineering, sparkly vampires (champions with souls are the only vampires worth loving) and teaching normals the value of nerdom, all while rooting for her beloved Dallas Stars. Then came the Sokovia Accords and her short spell of saving others came to an end. With Darth Vader’s reputation rightfully returning to badass status, Nerdling is making her way back to the Empire. They do have cookies, you know. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.