Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott
Director: Sam Mendes
I can’t understate my excitement when I say candidly that 1917 may be the best war movie since Saving Private Ryan. It’s amazing to watch Mendes and his team take a fairly simple concept and morph it into one of the best movies of the year. For the most part war movies are pretty formulaic, but for Mendes to create something that isn’t predominantly focused on combat helps make 1917 one of the most interesting and well-made war movies ever. Combined with unique technical elements that would be great in any movie regardless of the genre and you have multiple reasons to sit down and immerse yourself in all 119 minutes of 1917.
The film follows Lance Corporals William Schofield (Mackay) and Thomas Blake (Chapman), two British World War I soldiers who have been assigned to deliver message about an upcoming British attack on the German front lines. The soldiers are walking into a trap and if Schofield and Blake don’t arrive in time, all of these soldiers, Blake’s brother included, will be killed. Together, these two men must travel behind enemy lines to deliver this information for the sake of all of those fighting in the battle. While everything surrounding this movie seems to be very straightforward, the way that Mendes frames this movie is what really makes it special. Specifically, the cinematography of Roger Deakins creates one of the realest environments in a war movie that I’ve ever seen. Deakins shoots the movie in a way that makes it look like the movie is one continuous shot with no cuts whatsoever. Some people may view this as a gimmick, but when you see the way it’s formatted you’ll see that it’s far more impressive than it sounds. It completely invites viewers into the movie and puts them in the thick of any battle these two soldiers see. Whether this is the tightness and claustrophobia of their hiding spaces and meeting rooms or the scale at which these battlefields look like, Deakins’ cinematography makes 1917 and experience instead of just a movie. While the cinematography is certainly helpful when making a movie like this, the usual elements of a great war movie are obviously present here. Whether this is capturing the loud, rambunctious noises of war or adding a beautiful score of brass and strings, 1917 manages to do everything right and will end up as one of the best war movies of all time when everything is all said and done. Mendes hasn’t made a bad movie in his career and he certainly isn’t starting now with a movie that could very realistically take home a handful of Oscars this year. When you add in the personal elements that connect this movie to Mendes’ grandfather who fought in World War I and you can tell Mendes put more than his fair share of effort into getting this movie out to the general public and he released the best version of this movie possible. There aren’t too many movies that capture the attention of the audience and hold it the entire time like 1917 can and that won’t be forgotten anytime soon by me.
Overall, 1917 completely missed my radar for 2019 and to a degree I’m glad it did. Watching this movie build up over time and not go in the direction you think most war movies do proves the story is just as strong as the technical aspects. Whatever ends up happening to 1917, I think everyone will end up thankful they watched it and will talent away the scale and magnitude of a war that is slowly being forgotten about.
Overall Score: 9.5/10