By Kevin Hoskinson
From Sam Mendes, the director of American Beauty and Skyfall, comes an epic story of honor, friendship, and determination in the face of war. He once again teams with genius cinematographer Roger Deakins and creates a story that is equal parts inspirational and harrowing but also feels very familiar.
The plot of the film is relatively simple. In April of 1917, during the first World War, Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake are given what seems like an impossible mission. They are instructed to cross over into enemy territory to deliver a message that can potentially save 1,600 of their comrades, including Blake’s brother.
There isn’t a lot going on story-wise in 1917, but that is ok. The film is about a journey, a mission that is literally life or death. The story is compelling and often anxiety-inducing, but it never feels like a war film in the traditional sense. It’s an adventure film first and foremost, with most of the horrors of war feeling like a second thought. There is some brutal imagery, but it’s not meditated upon for more than a couple seconds before they move on. That is what makes this film unique in its own way, it feels like Saving Private Ryan, but without the dark and dreary atmosphere or imagery.
The cast of the movie is pretty much made up of unknown actors, which makes it feel more authentic. There is the occasional big name that pops up in the narrative, but it never takes away from the overall experience. Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay play Blake and Schofield, and their chemistry is undeniable. At the beginning of the film, they barely know each other. They are brothers in arms and have mutual respect from the start, but over time, their chemistry grows exponentially. The actors portray this incredibly well, and they are fantastic to watch together.
And while the story is engaging and the cast is great, that isn’t what makes 1917 the film you must see at theaters. What makes the movie special is its technical achievements. This is a movie about a journey across Europe, and it captures some of the most breathtaking and beautiful views of the country. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is well known in the industry for his eye. His work can be seen in films such as The Shawshank Redemption, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Blade Runner, Skyfall, and Blade Runner 2049. He knows how to capture an epic landscape while still staying focused on the story at hand. Just watch some of those films, and from the first frame, you will know exactly what I’m talking about.
On top of capturing some of the most incredible images ever put on film, this movie is edited together to give the feeling of one long, continuous shot. It works incredibly well and keeps the story moving along at a brisk pace. It looks incredible and is definitely something you should experience on the big screen.
1917 is one of the safest bets when it comes to going to the movies. I would even recommend this film to people who don’t necessarily care for movies about war because that’s not what this movie is about. It looks incredible, has great action, good acting, and some real tension at times. It’s also a safe bet when it comes to awards season, with chances of it winning Best Picture at the Oscars this year incredibly high because it’s the kind of film the Academy loves. It’s not going to challenge you much or make you think about war any differently, but it’s definitely worth a watch in theaters.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Kevin Hoskinson is a writer with a deep-seeded love for movies, comic books, television and the paranormal. From humble beginnings working the box office at his local movie theater, he’s worked his way to becoming a humble family man and professional bug exterminator. Growing up, he wanted to become an astronaut, a Ghostbuster, a dinosaur, and a Disney animator before he found his passion for writing as a teen. He studied film at Los Angeles Valley College with an emphasis on screenwriting and film criticism. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two kids. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter @Kevin_Hoskinson, and Instagram @kevinhoskinson.