Written by Krysty Wilson-Cairns and Sam Mendes and directed by Mendes, “1917” is a World War One film that follows two young men tasked with an extraordinary order. Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) must travel across the German front line and warn the company of men there that they must call off their attack, as it’s actually a deadly trap devised by the Germans threatening the lives of those 1,600 men. As it so happens, one of the men chosen for this treacherous quest, Blake, has an older brother in the company of men that are set to attack the following morning. The perfect motivator to get an urgent message to the right people in time.
What makes this war film work so well is the direct and immersive nature of a simple tale of two soldiers delivering a pertinent message that holds the future of hundreds of lives in the balance. The intimate nature of following these two characters so closely on a mission fraught with danger around every corner is so damn exhilarating and it’s made all the more impressive with veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins behind the camera. The decision to shoot the film as if it was done all in one take was a smart choice that keeps you with these characters through every moment on their journey. We’re brought along with Blake and Schofield as they experience unspeakable horrors, small wonders, quiet beauty, and a surreal grief all driven by a powerful need to carry onward and complete their mission.
I definitely understand how the film has been nominated for so many awards, and in lesser years of Cinematic history- it may have swept the Oscars. It’s a treasure trove of wonders that we cinephiles find ourselves in when looking back at 2019 as a whole. I don’t want to dive too far into the details of this one, as it’s best experienced in the total blackness of a movie theater, but it was one of the more powerful movie-going experiences in recent memory for me. I am so incredibly conflicted with the awards categories, but hell, none of that really matters at the end of the day, we should all be so lucky to have had so many excellent films in one year.
If you, like me, didn’t catch this one right away- I highly suggest seeing it before it leaves the theaters. “1917” is an excellent, moving, and ethereal war film that perfectly captures the human element when concerned with the clashing of nations. This is one of the best war films, in my opinion, to have come out in the last thirty years. Its’ up there with “Saving Private Ryan”, it stands with cinema’s giants.
Final Score: 2 Lance Corporals