Sam Mende’s 1917 is quite possibly, one of the best movies that is coming out this year.
While viewer mileage may vary due to individual history and interpretation of experiences, this movie is such a technical masterpiece that it is very hard to find anyone who will not find something to enjoy about this film.
1917 can be summed up with this amalgamation; the cinematography of Birdman, the intensity of Dunkirk and the authenticity of Hacksaw Ridge/Saving Private Ryan.
And while it is true that it sounds like it borrows elements from these films, this is a wholly unique project.
It tells a story that has not been told, it is filmed in a way that no war movie or even most movies in general would ever attempt, it is harrowingly intense and by the end you will probably be too emotionally drained to speak.
No doubt, if you’ve read or watched any advanced screenings of this film, you have seen the amount of praise being heaped on the style and composition of the cinematography of the amazing Roger Deakins.
And seriously, to call the cinematography and composition in this film ‘amazing’ does injustice to the word.
This film is shot like you are really living in these moments. It was shot and edited together in such a way that the film looks like it is one continuous take and shot after each other.
So again, if you’ve seen Birdman, then you have an idea of what I’m talking about.
This is the first war movie that feels like it puts you directly in the situations and the actions.
The camera takes on more of a direct role, feeling like you’re following these two men instead of just passively observing them.
There’s a common trait taught in film school; do your best to make your characters active in the structure and events instead of passive.
In layman’s terms; make your characters a part of the event, instead of simply being the one that the event happens to.
This may be the first film that not only manages to nail that idea, but the first film I’ve seen that incorporates this idea within the camera movement as well.
This is the most immersive visuals I have experienced within a film. Just, top notch all around.
The acting is equally superb. George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman are pitch perfect in the role of two terrified and determined men, who have to rely on their gut and courage to make it through one of the most horrible times in history.
This is not a role that has not been seen before, we’ve seen it in Dunkirk, we’ve seen it in Hacksaw Ridge, but this film captures it in such a way that you really feel like you could be one of these characters.
Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Benedict Cumberbatch and Colin Firth round out a stellar supporting cast. Everyone here brought their gravitas A-game, you feel for these characters.
The sound here is just on another level, much like the cinematography. To throw in another comparison to Dunkirk, I talked at length about that films usage of natural noise, war sounds and music to create a legitimate sense of anxiety and tension.
This movie, sort of does the same thing only with a little bit less. When the war is in full tilt, and explosions and screams are deafening, you feel terrified, however, when the noise stops is when this movie shows the true horror and fright of war.
When there are no explosions or horrible agonizing screams, and all you have is the vast emptiness around you and the potential of death around every corner, this movie will make you chew your nails to the nub.
Even in the bright of day, you feel like any moment one of these characters could lose his life. It is absolutely horrifying.
1917 is truly a film for the ages.
While it is understandable that some people who had no interest in history or military find themselves unable to get into war films, this is a movie that I believe people should make an exception for.
There are definitely war films that tell a heavier story about family or friendship, such as The Journey Home, Lone Survivor or When Trumpets Fade, but 1917 is just a masterclass of technicality and design that it may go down as one of the best movies of the last five years.
It is such a visceral and immersive experience unlike anything else that has come before it.