Starring: Dean Charles-Chapman, George MacKay
Directed By: Sam Mendes (Skyfall)
Runtime: 2 hours
Given the choice between the two world wars, the second world war admittedly has been the source of much better movies.WW2 has Saving Private Ryan, Patton, The Dirty Dozen, Bridge on the River Kwai, Casablanca, and Schindler’s List.World War 1 just has never had the same amount of intrigue.Quiet on the Western Front, Paths of Glory, and Lawrence of Arabia are really the headliners.Not much else to speak of.1917 looks to change that.Bringing us the story of two men tasked with finding a British military outfit and delivering them the message to stop their message or they will face certain death.
A movie about World War 1 with no top level stars needs something to hook an audience.Yes, I’m aware Colin Firth is in this.So is Benedict Cumberbatch.But they’re both in about one scene each.Not really enough to sell you on a movie either way.1917 has a hook.The movie is presented as one long singular take.There are a few cuts along the way, but not many.You really watch this mission unfold in real time as if it were in real life, in one camera shot.
Two people get the kudos for pulling off this type of big swing.Director Sam Mendes, who you remember from such films as Skyfall and American Beauty.After the movie, it is revealed that Mendes’ family member was in the first World War.So, this is personal to him.But the real maestro of this movie is cinematographer Roger Deakins.A 14-time Oscar nominee.Deakins made The Shawshank Redemption look the way it looks, he made O Brother Where Art Thou stylish, he was nominated TWICE for Cinematography in 2008 alone.Deakins is the best to ever do this.And this might be his masterpiece.I cannot immediately recall a movie that has looked better in recent memory than 1917.It is a gorgeous film on the big screen.
The way the camera moves and makes you feel you’re a part of the action is incredible.The lighting, the use of shadows, everything about 1917 is majestic.Well…almost everything.
The only problem I had with 1917 is a big one.There isn’t much story going on here.Yes, there is a singular mission that our two main characters are given to complete.Yes, they incur various obstacles along the way.But I found there to be a ton of down time in between the obstacles.There’s a lot of walking in this movie.I know it is supposed to make me feel like I’m a part of the action, and it does.But in between moments of peril, there’s a lot of nothing.I didn’t find either character all that compelling.I was rooting for them, but I wasn’t really made to care about their lives back home.
I’ve been going back and forth on this movie.I want to downgrade it for not giving me a compelling story, but I want to reward it for giving me a beautifully shot and wonderfully executed film.I want to downgrade because I just didn’t enjoy myself in the way I thought I would, but I feel I need to boost my rating because I’m the outlier.This movie is receiving high praise at an almost universal level.1917 has an “A” Cinemascore rating.A 90% approval rating from critics and the audience on Rotten Tomatoes.1917 is currently rated as the 58th best movie of all-time on IMDb.I won’t say it’s all show and no go, but it’s all show and not a lot of go.It’s a mediocre story that was told better in Saving Private Ryan presented in a very pretty package.The showmanship is tricking a lot of people.This movie has a lot of empty calories that people are failing to see in my eyes.
I’ll do this.I’ll rate with my head and not my heart.I’ll be the outlier today.But I promise when this is out on video or streaming, I’ll give it another go to see how I feel about it.I didn’t hate it by any means.Thumbs up or thumbs down, it’s a big thumbs up.Worth your time.I just am not as crazy about this movie as everyone else is.I see why it won Best Picture at the Golden Globes, those awards are doled out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.They were excited to see a British success story told in a competent manner.I get it.I just want everyone to take a step back from all the pretty colors and whimsy this movie gives off to see if there’s anything worth it below the surface.
On a scale of “See It/Stream It/Skip It” – See It – I’m not an idiot.This movie deserves to be see on the big screen.Even if I wasn’t gaga about it.It’s a beautiful spectacle.One of the best looking movies in recent memory.That deserves high praise.
If you liked movies like Paths of Glory, Lawrence of Arabia, or All Quiet on the Western Front you might enjoy 1917.
3 out of 5 stars for 1917. The technical mastery is weighed down by a lack of story.A beautiful, but somewhat empty movie.