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.
What We Thought:
1917 is one of my favorite movies from 2019. It would definitely make my top 5 for the year. I understand why some people don’t love it and I’ll explain why in a bit, but as someone who grew up on war movies, I always love a great war movie.
The plot of the film is simple and one we’ve seen before. Two soldiers are pretty much put on a suicide mission to get a message to those in charge well beyond enemy territory. I believe this is one of the issues some people have with the movie, it’s not the most original storyline. That’s fine, I can understand their complaint about the plot.
For me the story is almost irrelevant. I liked the movie because of its gimmick. If you haven’t heard, 1917 looks like one long tracking shot. Ok maybe 3 long tracking shots because there are definitely a few noticeable hard cuts in it. Thanks to movies like Birdman, we’ve seen other films use this technique as well. I know some people who didn’t like the movie because of this gimmick, but to me they are wrong. For me, it wasn’t a gimmick for gimmick’s sake. To me these long tracking shots added to the film’s intensity and feel.
Thanks to cinematography by the iconic Roger Deakins, you literally follow along with the movie. You follow these men from the beginning, through no man’s land and enemy territory, through roads and on trucks and everything in between. You see a plane crash and others come in and out of the film while you watch the mission unfold. I thought it was shot beautifully and you feel everything around you. Using a mix of close ups and long backdrops you are in and out of the action just like the characters. One shot the two men aren’t even in the foreground, but the background after they crossed some water with dead bodies. You feel like you’re there on location watching what they are doing. I enjoyed the heck out of it. I guess I understand why others didn’t like this gimmick, but it totally worked for me.
As of right now 1917 has won two Golden Globes (Best Picture – Drama, Best Director – Sam Mendes) and I expect it to land multiple Oscar nominations as well. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s an intense watch with a great atmosphere thanks to Mendes and Deakins. It also has a great score that adds to the intensity. Various British actors pop up throughout the roller coaster ride and it’s something I can see myself watching multiple times like Dunkirk.
Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, with Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch
Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Producers: Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jayne-Ann Tenggren, Callum McDougall, Brian Oliver