Friday, 17 January 2020
1917 (Movie Review)
So I finally got around to seeing 1917, the World War I epic directed by Sam Mendes. This is mainly because our local film exhibitors had once again elected not to show it, despite the movie receiving a wide release in the US last weekend (it originally received a limited release on the 25th of December). The film has been getting a lot of buzz this movie awards seasons, and is in fact the current frontrunner to take home Best Picture at next month's Academy Awards, and for very good reason.
Set in war-torn France during the peak of the First World War, 1917 tells the story of two British soldiers, Schofield (George McKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), who must cross into enemy lines in order to deliver a message that could save the lives of 1,600 fellow soldiers. Those soldiers have been led to believe that they have the Germans on the run, when in fact their retreat is an elaborate plan by the German forces to draw them in for a devastating ambush. Both men must go above and beyond as they race against time in a mission that seems doomed from the start.
The first thing that immediately sets 1917 apart from other war movies (or other films in general) is its breathtaking cinematography. The entire movie is presented as one single take, ensuring that we the viewers are constantly in the thick of the action, with the camera weaving through trenches and buildings with an almost impossible fluidity. There is one particular scene where the two soldiers witness a distant dogfight taking place up in the air, that ends with one of the planes crashing towards them; it was just one of many shots that exemplifies the brilliant camerawork and effects in the movie.
Also worthy of note is the movie's score, which goes from somber to rousing and back again as the on-screen action demands. Then the whole thing is held together by some of the best editing I have seen in recent years, effectively masking the cuts between takes to perpetuate that sense of immersion the single-take camerawork is going for.
1917 is a film that is every bit deserving of all the praise and accolades it has received thus far. It is a movie that goes from effectively capturing the tension and horrors of war in one scene, then shows the quaintness of the world being affected by all that bloodshed in another. It is a technical marvel that accomplishes that almost impossible balancing act through careful pacing and tightly-choreographed action, and it would surely go down in history as one of the great film accomplishments of our time.