Movie #28 2020: 1917 (2019)

There was a lot of buzz around this movie, particularly in the UK for understandable reasons. What can be said about it that hasn’t already been? Not much.

Is this film an extraordinary technical achievement? Yes. Was the editing great? Yes. Was Sam Mendes worthy of his Best Director nomination? Yes. Did Roger Deakins deserve his win for Best Cinematography? Yes. Am I happy it didn’t win Best Feature Film? YEP. This movie is very good, whilst movies such as Parasite are extraordinary. And I’m not sorry about saying so.

A colleague of my girlfriend’s has labelled this “THE BEST FILM HE’S EVER SEEN!” That is a gross exaggeration, if you ask me. There is, and always will be, a fascination with war movies. Particularly those about the First and Second World Wars. It is only natural for people to love this movie, especially the British public who (sadly) look back on these conflicts as the heyday of their United Kingdom. Obviously, the men who fought in such battles were heroic, but the way we look back on arguably the most devastating wars the globe has ever seen with fondness is disturbing. I believe that if you watch 1917 and feel elated afterwards, you’re not reading Mendes’ intentions correctly.

This is not a movie that is supposed to glorify war, and it does a decent job of doing just that. It is brutal, and harsh, and the sound mixing immerses the viewer more than ever in the terror of war. I’m not saying you can’t feel proud of what your country did to overcome fascism (my grandfather was shot in and survived the Second World War for instance, and I will be eternally proud of him), I’m saying that what you should be taking away from this is the bleakness of it. And if you don’t get that from this movie, I strongly suggest you re-watch it with this in mind.

1917 is a movie with spectacle; the scenes (pictured above) with George MacKay in the lead role, running horizontally across the trenches at the war front are brilliant. The special effects are excellent as well, in particular the sequence of a plane crash landing into a field where the main protagonists stand.

On the downside, the story of this movie will not stay with me for long. In fact, I’ve forgotten quite a large majority of the plot already. However, the technical prowess of it is something that has now set a benchmark for future Mendes movies, and indeed something for other directors to aspire to.

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