Movie Review: 1917

When I watched the Oscars last year, I decided that this year I wanted to do a better job actually watching as many of the films before the Oscars came around again. So that’s what I’ve set out to do, though there’s not a ton of time before they come (the 9th this year! That feels about 2-3 weeks earlier. Am I wrong?)

First up, I went and saw 1917 when it opened. I’d heard a lot about the movie ahead of time: the tale of a pair of young soldiers in WWI tasked with bringing vital information across the battlefield. If they succeeded, they’d save the lives of 1,600 men. If they failed, those men were doomed. Even more intriguingly (to me), the movie was made to seem like it was one long continuous shot. No cuts. How could I resist?

The movie is a masterpiece. I loved the whole thing. I know some had found the continuous take to be a bit too gimmicky, but it worked wonderfully for me. It made the movie that much more compelling, and I felt like it was a real callback to a simpler sort of film. “This is the story. These two men. That’s all we’re going to show.” When you use that approach, you can’t have a bunch of cheats you usually get to use. No cutting away to a different scene to raise tension. The audience knows and sees exactly what your characters know and see. Because of this, I found some of the action pieces so much more riveting than they might have been had they been told in the standard style.

In many ways, the movie reminded me of Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, which was also a great piece. The acting and plot in this film were great, but I really have to hand it to the cinematographer. It looks amazing, and the tricks they had to pull to make the “one continuous shot” feel real are fairly incredible. It’s telling to me that the film was nominated for 10 Oscars, but not one of those was for acting. That doesn’t often happen, I don’t think. This is not an actor’s film (anymore than DiCaprio’s Revenant was an actor’s film, but let’s not go there). This is all about story and execution. I loved it.

The movie is rated R for language (11 f-words, if you’re keeping exact count) and its grisly depiction of war. (It’s filmed in the middle of trench warfare, and it doesn’t shy from showing exactly what that would have been like.) However, this would be a movie that I’d recommend to just about anyone who’s at all a fan of movies (and is mature enough to handle the gore). I found it completely gripping. 10/10, and I would be pleased as punch to see it rake in the awards.


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