Well, well, well, nice to know I got one of the big Oscar hopefuls out of the way and got to see it even before the Golden Globes premiered. Thank you to Cinemark Movie Rewards for the free advance tickets. Needless to say 1917 is a triumph. It’s not just another war film, this one is special because the whole movie is designed to look like one (really two though) continuous takes. Some will say it is just a gimmick. A gimmick is only a gimmick when it doesn’t work, IMO. This absolutely works. The continuous take isn’t just a technical marvel, but it brings passion, tension, and stakes to the plot, acting somewhat as a ticking time bomb for our characters and their mission (sort of what the musical score did for Dunkirk). It isn’t a perfect movie, there are a couple of slower than usual parts, as a lot of the movie is characters walking from point A to point B and telling something about themselves (a la Lord of the Rings). But it is one that will have a lot of people like me talking, especially when it steals every single technical award it is nominated for. If 1917 doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Cinematography for Roger Deakins (who has been nominated countless times and finally one a few years ago with Blade Runner 2049), something is seriously wrong with the Academy.
I suspect a direction nomination should at least be in the cards for Sam Mendes (Skyfall), because what is on the screen is absolutely phenomenal. For me, there will have to be multiple viewings of this as there is just so much going on. It is almost impossible to study the flow of the fantastic steady camera work, to what is going on in the background, and what is lurking behind the shadows. It is just a fantastic piece of technical work. The only hindrance from this being a masterpiece is that the story is a little too straight forward, yes, some twist and turns and a shit ton of obstacles stand in the way, but it is just a “get from point a to point b” in a certain amount of time kind of affair or a shit ton of lives will be lost (on repeat viewings it could get to masterpiece for me however). Two British soldiers are given what seems like an impossible task to deliver a message which will warn of an ambush during one of the skirmishes soon after the German retreat. That the group there is basically running into a trap when they think that the German’s are really on the run. These two soldiers are on there own, into the unknown, going into enemy lines, avoid traps, pitfalls and unseen enemies in the shadows, just to save over 1,600 men, one of them being the brother of one of the two soldiers.
You’ve heard of the movie being just one continuous take, but it really is two, and you’ll blatantly see why without me having to go into spoilers. But the two takes are phenomenally fantastic. Yes, I could tell with some of the editing where exactly they pieced together scenes to make it look like one continuous take (i.e. going into the dark for a quick second or a soldiers backpack taking up the entire frame) but if you don’t look as closely as I do, it is all perfectly seamless. And the acting is pretty solid too. You have two unknowns at the forefront, doing their best acting when their lives are very much at the forefront of danger. And then you have several celebrity cameos spread throughout to stitch the whole thing together. Everybody does a great job. And I was on edge almost the entire time in my seat. The movie also did well at subverting expectations somewhat with the two soldiers on the mission. I won’t say much, but shit goes down I didn’t expect to go down and so soon. The 2 hr film is just one big panic attack giant obstacle course. In the end, it will go down as one of the best technical achievements not only of this decade but of all time. It is some of the best camera work every put to film. Like I said above, taking it all in on just one viewing will not be enough.
1917 will be required Oscar viewing, and I think the buzz is only going to kick up more once this film is released everywhere January 10th (December 25th to New York & L.A.). I think they are pretty confident with this film with these advance screenings to get the word of mouth moving before the New Year hits, I think that is very, very smart. While being Rated R for language and some war violence, I do think this is a film that older families should go together to get the most out of this breathtaking experience. Almost forgot to mention, the most breathtaking visuals are not during the day, but at night, when one of the characters wakes up, and looks out a window, while flares are fired up into the air. Absolutely fucking beautiful. I could watch that scene a billion times. Also, seeing it on the largest screen and with the best sound possible. I think it is even IMAX worthy. My theater, Legacy in Plano, the screen wasn’t the biggest, and the sound wasn’t the best, but it was the only advance showing that I knew of at the time, and wanted to get a check mark on my Oscar list earlier than I thought I would. If I see it again, in a better theater, I think I might rank it higher on my list at the end of the year, we’ll see. Ultimately, I think 1917 will go down as the most talked about war film since Saving Private Ryan. And it’s all deserved.