Friday, January 10, 2020

Movie Review: 1917 (Non-Spoiler)

In the art of film, sometimes you come across one that, simply put, takes your breath away.  A film that grabs onto you from the first frame and doesn’t let go, not for one single second, until the credits roll.  Films like these are rare, but when you come across one, it leaves an impression on your soul.  I discovered a film like that today in the form of Sam Mendes’’ new war film, 1917.

However, to just call this a “war film” seems far too simplistic, as it is so much more than that.  This is a film about friendship and family, duty and honor, amongst the backdrop of war.  It doesn’t glorify the death and destruction that these epic battles bring with it, but instead shows you the down-and-dirty side of things.  It shows you just how terrible and how horrifying these events were and are.

1917 shares with us a simple story on the surface: two men trying to save lives.  One brother in search of another.  But within that story lies so much more than I could have ever asked for.  The two main characters, Schofield and Blake, have been tasked with delivering a message to another battalion, and to do so they must risk their lives and cross into enemy territory.  During this journey they learn more about each other, about themselves, and about what it really means to serve your country.

Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not really a war film kind of guy, they don’t tend to interest me, but after seeing a behind-the-scenes featurette about the cinematography techniques being used, I was hooked.  I needed to see this film as soon as possible.  Unfortunately, the don’t live anywhere that offers early screenings for films like this, or where it was running during its limited release, so I had to wait until now.  But even though I had to wait, it was absolutely worth it.

This film is a beautifully masterful achievement of cinema and of storytelling as a whole.  Sam Mendes’ ability to capture the deep emotions of these characters and bring that to life is nothing short of spectacular.  And he wouldn’t have been able to do all of this without the genius eye of one of the greatest cinematographers to ever enter the field, Roger Deakins.  What he did here, making the entire film on long tracking shot, was nothing short of amazing.  I didn’t know how, or even if, he could pull it off, but he did, and it’s incredible.  And the third piece of this exceptional puzzle is the beautifully tense and emotional score by Thomas Newman, one of the best of the year, no doubt.  They, plus many others, put together a film that is going to go down in film history as one of the greats, and to use a word that I very rarely ever use... it’s a masterpiece.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the powerfully stellar performances by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman.  What they did here was out of this world.  You could feel every single emotion they were putting forth - anger, dread, sadness, despair, fear, hope... all of it.  I was locked in to their emotions, feeling whatever they were feeling at any given moment.  I truly hope to see more of these two, as what they did here was incredible.

Overall, this is a film that I believe will last the test of time and people will be talking about it for years to come.  I know I sure will.

The Merc’s Score: 10/10

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