Movie Review: 1917

by Aaron Davidson

Editor’s Note: Reviews of movies and other artistic exhibitions reflect the opinion of our student writers.

Speechless.

 I am a big fan of Sam Mendes, I think both American Beauty and Skyfall are great films. I also love war movies, both Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge are in my top 10 favorite movies of all time. 

My expectations for 1917 were high.   However, as I approached the actual viewing, I got nervous it might not live up to my expectations or the hype.

I was wrong. 

Let’s start with the story, which is a relatively simple plot.  The movie takes us to the center of the first world war. The audience follows two British soldiers, Blake and Schofield, deep into enemy territory in a race against time to deliver an important message that would save the lives of 1,600 soldiers

Even with a simple premise, 1917 is a captivating movie. 

I haven’t been swept into a movie like this since 2017’s Logan. From the first few minutes of this movie, I knew it was going to be an absolute thrill ride from start to finish. 

Adding to the storyline was the score by Thomas Newman.  At any point the story felt like it might be slowing, the music would swell and lead the audience back into another action-filled moment.  This combination of movie and music kept me on the edge of my seat.

One of the complaints about 1917 is that it does not show the true horrors of war, or that other movies do a better job conveying the reality of these conflicts.  

I disagree with this position.  In fact, it was 1917’s ability to make me feel a connection with the moment-by-moment horror of the soldiers that I think represents its true depth.  

From the constant talk of starvation and rats to the sights of fallen soldiers in ‘no man’s land,’ I couldn’t stop thinking about just how horrible it would have been to be present in those moments.  

The movie stopped being fiction when I realized these things were reality to the soldiers and civilians caught in the crossfire more than 100 years ago.  

While 1917 was a movie and the characters only actors, there were real soldiers who died in no man’s land.  Bodies were torn apart and left to be buried by nature or the next explosion. Many of those fighting never returned home.

In the movie and in reality, innocent lives were destroyed.  People who were not engaged in the conflict died because of the conditions created by a war that came to their town.   

This movie really got to me. 

Stepping back from the reality of war to the world created in 1917, I think the writing allowed for effective and creative character development.  The script did not force the audience into a deep dive into the background of the characters, rather it allowed their past to come alive through quick conversations.

George McKay’s portrayal of Lance Corporal Schofield was another exceptional piece that led to a connection between the audience and the characters on screen.  McKay’s acting made Schofield, a character with his own character flaws, a hero.  

In my opinion for 2019 cinema, McKay’s performance was second only to Joaquin Phoenix in Joker.

From a technical aspect, 1917 was a marvel.  The cinematography and the brilliant one-shot tracking brings you on to the battlefield and along on this mission every step of the way. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is truly a master of his craft.  

I went into the movie theater expecting a good war movie.  I walked out amazed and deeply impacted by not only a great story, but by the reality of the plight of those who lived and died in the Great War.

While Hollywood will decide what awards 1917 wins, I award it the best picture of 2019.

Rating: 10/10

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