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1917

As buzz began to build around 1917 earlier in the year, admittedly, my excitement was limited. We have, after all, seen so many war films over the years, that I figured that it would just be another bloody tale of brotherhood and loss. Digging deeper, however, I learned that the film, directed by Sam Mendes (AMERICAN BEAUTY, SKYFALL) was presenting the story as if it were one continuous shot. I was enamored by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s BIRDMAN for utilizing this tactic, and I couldn’t fathom how it would be possible to employ this technique on the battlefield. Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, 1917 isn’t just the best movie of 2019, it is pure movie magic.

I can’t remember the last time I spent so much time mulling the artistic accomplishment of a film in the days that followed my initial viewing. While this type of proclamation doesn’t necessarily translate to mainstream success, the truth of the matter is, 1917 is as engaging of a war film that has ever been created. The one-shot technique isn’t merely a quirky gimmick to get audience members into the seats, it puts you in the trenches, and sprinting across the battlefields. Though films like HACKSAW RIDGE were shocking in their unrelenting brutality, 1917 emits an authenticity that I haven’t seen since Spielberg’s D-Day invasion in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. As Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) attempt to stop an allied battalion from marching their way into a deadly ambush, they meticulously weave their way throughout multiple complex locations. Each one of these scenes is striking in their individuality, but even more impressive when viewed as a collection of sequences that flow seamlessly together to build an unforgettable narrative. From claustrophobic tunnels to a raging river, to a labyrinth-like burning village, every sequence is striking in its thrilling beauty and unbridled intensity.

1917 captures the very essence of why I love going to the movies. For that two hour span of time, I was so wholly invested in what was unfolding on the screen that I found it impossible to think about anything else. The cares and concerns of daily life melted away, as the wonderment of what is unfolding on the screen took center stage. There were multiple times when I found myself searching for a way to figure out where the cuts were being made, and while I think I was frequently successful, it was unbelievable how fluid the film was. Though the one-shot technique was ever-present, the story itself is so engaging, that I stopped looking for these cuts and lost myself in the action unfolding. Delivering a number of unexpected moments and emotional punches, it likely would have been an engaging entry into the war genre based upon its own storytelling merits, but coupled with the directorial and production decisions by Mendes and his crew, it became an instant classic. When considering the immense scope, production value, and dedication that it must have taken to tackle a vision such as this, to see the final cut as it is presented on screen is jaw-dropping in the most literal sense of the term. It is the rare type of film that made me want to stay in my seat the second the credits began to roll and wait for it to start again. It is, quite simply, the type of transcendent, rousing adventure that serves as a reminder that the cinema is still the most gratifying and exciting artistic medium that exists, and proves that it possesses the timeless ability to surprise and amaze.

1917 GRADE: A+

RATED: R

RUN TIME: 1h 59min

GENRE: Drama, Action

STARRING: Dean-Charles Chapman, George Mackay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Pip Carter

DIRECTORS: Sam Mendes

WRITERS: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns

A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA for allowing me to attend this month’s film.

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.