With the new film 1917 (2019), Director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins created one immersive experience that showcases the horrors of war and the drive of the human spirit. It is simultaneously a thrill ride and a cinematic marvel that never truly lets up – largely in part due to the lack of cuts that this digitally-stiched long-take camerawork offers. I’m not always a fan of war films, but there have been a few in recent years that really worked for me, and 1917 has certainly worked its way into the top tiers.
Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) are commanded to deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men – including Blake’s brother – from walking straight into a deadly trap. Black and Schofield have to move through war-torn parts that, until recently, housed many of the German soldiers as they advanced…and their communication is mostly cut-off, and neither knows for sure what lies ahead.
The most surprising part of 1917, to me, was how attached I became to Blake and Schofield. I’m not sure if it was the writing or the performances that created the instant sympathy I had for them – but either way, it was undeniable. With the cinematography basically putting us as the third member of this little party, WWI Frodo and Sam venture out to save a large group of men from throwing their lives away. The journey is fraught with cameos and set pieces that continuously escalate and engage the audience. However, it would all feel superficial if you didn’t care for Blake and Schofield, so Chapman and MacKay deserve tons of credit.
What really stood out to me the most was how Mendes displayed the nightmare that war is for those involved. Every soldier – whether nameless, extras or the various officers that the duo encounters – has the most haunted look in their eyes. There are a few who seem a little more crazed or delirious, but the effects of the combat they’ve seen are evident. This is more so true for the war-torn landscape that is the setting for the journey – each area is full of visuals that show the scars of war, and many of the pits are full of corpses being eaten by rats. As we move with our characters, we are constantly reminded that the only glory of war is escaping with one’s life; war is hell.
I would say seeing 1917 on the big screen is extremely vital if the movie interests you at all. The bigger the better, the immersive nature of the film is rewarded for the scale. I was totally blown away by how much I loved this film, and it has truly stayed with me. It is likely I’ll see this one more time before it exits theaters. 1917 earns the Must See rating.