TIME IS THE ENEMY
As if a soldier ourselves, the film opens its eyes and rarely closes them again until the story’s end. We run along, duck and dive hoping the opposing enemy doesn’t discover our location. We along with two idealistic British privates are tasked with a dire mission in the midst of World War I. If we do not succeed countless lives, 1,600 to be exact, will be lost in a single afternoon. We must complete our mission at all costs and with an entire war between us and our destination, I think easier said than done is a great way to describe our situation. Time is ticking away, get moving, now.
I describe this film as if we are apart of it because great effort was taken to make us feel that way. We are immersed in the trenches, doused in mud and blood and heartbreak just as the main duo find themselves navigating a treacherous path, us in close proximity at all times.
Using ingenious editing techniques, the entire runtime is made to feel like one long, arduous take of relentless tension brimming with danger and loss. Roger Deakins turns in his best material since his award winning work on Blade Runner 2049 and will undoubtedly be nominated yet again for 1917. From the one take approach to the absolutely glowing, gorgeous visuals of vacated, tattered warzones and exhausted infantrymen running for their lives and the lives of 1,600 fellow soldiers, Deakins captures it all in a way that feels simultaneously like a dream and visceral hellscape.
It is shown in a way meant to immerse the audience into an unfamiliar world so many fought through, and so many died for. A major way they achieved this is through the perceived one take shot. With the few exceptions of a soldier blacking out for example, the film hides its edits to create the illusion. From dark hallways transitioning to sun soaked war trenches, the edits fall in the in between moments, when they are impossible to notice unless you know where to look. It is a technical masterwork.
Sam Mendes directs proving again he is one not to be overlooked anytime soon. He has a tender but forceful touch to his stories giving his characters charisma with room to grow. They are always fully realized but never fully formed, allowing for the upcoming burden or incident to change them, for better or worse. Feeling small in scope, the two privates navigate a wartorn, enemy infested territory to a finale that is certain to make them feel either worthy of living through the war or at least feeling worthy of dying for a cause they can believe in.
More a race against time set within a war, 1917 is about finding that extraordinary within oneself in order to survive and hopefully complete a mission so many are unknowingly waiting for. The implications are mammoth in size but shown with an unwavering kind of intimacy between two friends shaped into brothers by uncompromising outside influences. Set in a single day, these two boys will emerge men, changed forever for reasons they cannot begin to comprehend. Private Schofield (George MacKay) and Private Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are sent on a mission destined to fail but must be overcome no matter what. No pressure.
George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman are tasked with carrying the film, featured in nearly every minute of the film’s fast paced screen time. Together they deliver heartwrenching, gut-punched performances that hook you in and forces you to care about these two young men, whose fates look grim in the best moments. They convincingly endure the physical pitfalls of isolated soldiers in enemy territory. They lean on one another for support discussing their fears but never dropping their determination to carry on. Other characters enter and exit their path but ultimately it’s their story, it’s their impossible task.
1917 is a masterful piece of war cinema that has the makings of a classic that can stand out above the rest with a unique voice and vision all its own. With so much talent behind the camera and in front, this is a definite highlight of 2019 and highlight in the realm of cinematic war stories. It demands attention and promises no safe havens just as these soldiers were deprived. It is a revelation and a best picture contender come awards season. When I think of the best war films ever made I think of Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, among others, and now I can confidently add 1917 to this list of legendary cinematic warfare. It’s aim is to overwhelm at times in hopes of capturing the true breadth of an unforgiving war and it succeeds in epic, demanding, and dramatic fashion.
Rated R For: violence, some disturbing images, and language
Runtime: 119 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: War, Drama
Starring: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Richard Madden, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Colin Firth
Directed By: Sam Mendes
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 4.5/ Acting: 4.5/ Directing: 5/ Visuals: 5
OVERALL: 5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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