Rating: Four and a half High Peaks
Full disclosure. I am by no means a “war buff.”
In fact, History was my worst subject in high school. I sat in the movie theater during the previews of WWI-1917 wondering if I would make it through my box of Milk Duds before I fell asleep.
Man, was I ever wrong.
From the very start, Director/Writer Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road To Perdition) made the movie easy to grasp, even for someone who’s not a time period movie type person.
The plot of “1917” is simple: Two British soldiers, Schofield (Captain Fantastic's George MacKay) and Blake (Game of Thrones' Dean-Charles Chapman) are tasked with delivering a message across no man’s land to the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment to call off an ill advised attack. Doing so could save 1,600 lives, Blake’s own brother among them.
The script in which Mendes wrote, was based around stories that he heard his grandfather, Alfred, tell after “a couple of rums loosened his tongue.”
To better understand his grandfather’s stories, Mendes and his cinematographer Roger Deakins visited France and Flanders and Belgium to see the remains of what once existed.
They found themselves in deep, snaking trenches. Mendes admits he and Deakins got horribly lost and the only way to find their way out was to climb out of the trench and look from the top. The opposing sides trenches were no more than 250 yards apart and usually filled with barbed wire and bodies - a place called no man’s land.
The most notable thing about Schofield and Blake’s walk is that we see every agonizing step. Mendes at the head of a talented crew including Deakins and film editor Lee Smith, made the decision to depict this journey as a single, unbroken shot — or, at least, the appearance of one.
As Mendes states, “Every step had to be accounted for. The land had to be the length of the scene, and the scene had to be the length of the land.”
The film also did not have the “gimmicky” type war scenes. For instance, you are not going to see a bullet going in slow motion through the enemy’s earlobe.
Finally, someone realized it had been overdone.
In the end, “1917” nabbed best drama at the Golden Globes and tied “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “The Irishman” for the second-most Oscar nods with 10, just one few than “Joker.”
The film also leads the box office in its first week with roughly $37 million. Overall, I would definitely go see it again.
If nothing more, for the battle scenes I had to close my eyes for. And, to be honest, even those scenes weren’t that bad.