As Memorial Day approaches, I was asked to select a film to review that highlights the many sacrifices made by countless men and women in service of their country. The first movie that came to mind was the recent World War I drama, “1917.”
The movie “1917,” directed by Sam Mendes, follows two young soldiers – Schofield and Blake – as they travel across enemy lines to deliver a message that could potentially save the lives of 1,600 men – including Blake’s older brother. Time is of the essence, and Schofield and Blake will have to muster all their courage to complete this task before it’s too late.
I was lucky enough to get to see this film back in December while it was still in theaters. It was a memorable experience, and I wish everyone could see it on the big screen, because that’s what “1917” demands and deserves.
However, if you missed it, the good news is it’s now available to rent and buy. I highly encourage everyone who hasn’t seen it yet to take the time to do so now. I’m not always the biggest fan of high-action films or war movies, but I absolutely loved everything about this film. As I was watching it, I knew I was witnessing something special.
“1917” initially got a lot of recognition because it was made to look like one long, continuous take, although there are actually many unnoticeable cuts throughout the film. Some people really enjoyed this element of the movie, but others found it to be more of a publicity stunt than an artistic choice. I personally think the one-shot feel of the movie adds to its appeal and specialness.
This is one of the most emotional films I’ve seen in recent memory. The performances by Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay as Blake and Schofield, respectively, are beautiful and authentic. MacKay, in particular, really stands out. He had to carry a majority of this movie on his shoulders, and I imagine that was no easy feat. However, he does an excellent job of compelling viewers to care about his character’s well-being and safety.
Pretty much every famous British actor from the past 20 years is in this film at one point or another. To name a few, it has Benedict Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, and Richard Madden. All of these actors are multi-talented, but we knew that already, so I won’t spend time telling you their performances were great albeit brief. Chapman and MacKay are clearly the real stars.
What stands out the most to me about “1917,” however, is the cinematography. Roger Deakins, who won the Oscar for Best Cinematography in March, is truly a master of his craft. If you’re wondering what other movies he’s been involved in, just look up his IMDb page, and you’ll understand why I’m in such awe of his art. He was the cinematographer for “Fargo,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Skyfall” and “Blade Runner 2049” to name a few.
Deakins creates a beautiful, sometimes horrible painting with this film, and you can’t look away. The colors are striking, and I felt myself being incredibly moved by several scenes in particular toward the end of the film. The director, Mendes, of course had something to do with this as well. But, at least for me, Deakins is the technical star of “1917.”
“1917” may have its bleak moments, but I found it to be very inspirational and powerful, too. As we go into Memorial Day this year, perhaps it could be a reminder that we have much to be thankful for, and that those we have lost will always live on through the people who remember them.