Not for the faint of heart.
During World War 1, two soldiers are tasked with going into enemy territory so they can relay these orders directly from the general: 1,600 of their brothers-in-arms must not attack the Germans, who only appear to be retreating when in fact they plan on trapping the soldiers. Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake must get there before the attack advances, to save the 1,600 men, one of which is Blake’s brother.
I don’t watch a lot of war movies, but each time I have – Saving Private Ryan or HBO’s Band of Brothers series – I’m glad I did. This is no exception. When done right, a film like this can capture sheer brutality. 1917 may not have been a gore-fest, but it earned the R rating from language and the realism. To add to that aspect, the story is partly based on accounts told to the director, Sam Mandes, by his grandfather. Couple that with the cinematography, which was designed to make the film seem as though it is one continuous shot, and this is more of an experience than a movie.
In general, cinematography has to stand out either very poorly or very strongly for me to notice. I may like movies, but I usually pay attention to the writing aspect (I am not very artistic). I have never seen something shot like this, and I’m sure other directors will attempt to capture the same feel in other projects. It stood out to me, and I appreciate the work that went into the filming style.
As for the story, it plays out like you may expect from an epic war story- shocking moments, tension, and people brought to crossroads that can define the tide of battle. It also depicts scenarios in which characters are asked a lot of- the determination of the two main characters can only be admired. I think we need more depictions of this kind of strong-willed focus. We forget that there are situations – past and present – in which sensitivity, subtlety, and comfort have to be all but forgotten, when lives are at stake and someone has to put their needs behind them entirely.
If movies like this may not appeal to you, I would still recommend checking it out. The story to be told, and the lessons that can be learned are lot to unpack. This is one that stands out in the crowd for sure.