Review: ‘1917’

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Photo//Universal Pictures

War: A terrible battle between two sides in opposition; filled with blood, gore and death. Our recollection about the trenches and graves and memorials from the only two World Wars primarily exists through books, black and white photos and generational tales.

Documentaries and films take us beyond the world of our imagination.

“1917” is a film successfully written and directed by Sam Mendes. The story follows two Lance Corporals in the British army in the 8th Battalion, Corporals Blake and Schofield. Both are brought to General Erinmore and given a suicide mission.

The Germans have pulled out of the “Deadman’s Land” area and are getting ready to set up the British 2nd battalion (the “Devins”). The 2nd battalion was given orders to stop their assault by the next day. Their task was to cross Deadman’s Land and cross into a city on the other side. Blake is deeply invested in the mission due to his brother being in the 2nd battalion. The two soldiers go off and attempt to finish the mission, despite the dangerous risk.

Photo//Universal Pictures

An interesting aspect of the film is that it appears to have been shot in one take. The film is about two hours in length. According to Mendes, he wants people to watch the film for what it is as opposed to watching for cuts.

Among the few A-list actors, Benedict Cumberbatch makes a brief appearance in the film. In total, his screen time was 4 ½ minutes, with him appearing closer to the end (spoiler alert).

The cinematography was excellent, especially because there was great attention to detail. At times, it was almost too accurate. But that was the closest thing to reality during WW1. All the bodies, explosions and action are definitely appreciated along with all the gruesome visuals.

Since most of the scenes appear to be done in one shot, there is almost never a “look away” moment. The whole two hours of the film are intense, as it left me on the edge of my seat while gripping my attention. Never a dull moment throughout the entire film.

One thing to note is that while it retells events of WW1, the movie is actually based on several stories that Mendes’ grandfather told him, who was a WW1 veteran. So while the story might be accurate in its historical descriptions, it isn’t based on something that actually occurred.

“1917” includes universal themes like friendship, loyalty and perseverance. Schoefielf and Blake share a few moments where they question why Blake had chosen Schoefield as his partner. An incident happened in a German barracks and instead of running to save his own life, Blake saved Schoefield. Perseverance is seen throughout the whole film. At any point, the soldiers could’ve just turned tail and left, leaving 1,600 troops that they were sent to save.

In one scene, a group of trucks attempting to get through a road were blocked by the Huns (former name for German army) had cut down trees on the side of the road to block them. After a group of soldiers moved the tree, the tree mysteriously disappeared when the shot changes (one of the few cuts). This was one of the few unexplained mishaps Mendes made the entire film.

So far, the ratings have been massively positive across the board. IMDB has a rating of 8.6. Rotten Tomatoes has given the movie an 89% fresh rating.

“1917” has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including: Best Motion Picture of the Year, Directing, Original Screenplay, and Achievement in Cinematography. “1917” has won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture and Director. It was also nominated for Best Original Soundtrack.

All in all, this is an intense, historically accurate film that everyone should watch. 10/10 rating.

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Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence is a Junior majoring in Secondary Education in English and Minoring with an ESL certification. He's been a part of the Journal for all 3 of the years that he's attended UM-D, and has loved every minute of it. He is an avid creative writer, shutterbug, and experienced writer. He enjoys food, seeing movies with friends, and trying new ideas for writing!