This entry was posted on January 16, 2020.
This last weekend, I went to the cinema with my partner Emma to see 1917, the latest movie by Sam Mendez. I was expecting something as visually epic as Dunkirk (2017) and was not disappointed. It is definitely worth seeing and I'm sure will inspire many people to take up the Great War.
1917 is an amazing film. It manages to capture the different elements of warfare on the Western Front, through mud and blood, to the green fields beyond. There is even a section in a bombed out French town, which is impressively shown on the screen. I also liked the attention to detail, showing the different types of trenches (the improvised British ones, the chalk dug ones and the neat German ones).
Amazingly, the film is captured using the 'one take' method. The scenes unfold from the one camera perspective without any visible cuts or different angles. This technique was first used in the long shots of the film Citizen Kane (1941), and later in Rope (1948) which was entirely filmed using the 'one take' concept. The camera literally takes you through each scene and through the action without (seemingly) to break from the frame once.
Emma is usually my moral compass when it comes to films. She asked if it was accurate (it was, mostly), if the story was true (it was based on storys from the director's grandfather and the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line happened) and how long the Great War lasted after the film (one and a half years), which I took as a genuine concern for the fate of the characters post the events in the film. Overall, she liked the film - and it does take a lot for her to enjoy watching a war film. If the film had been gung-ho or heartless (Fury comes to mind), she would have let me know.
Some people have tried to find flaws - like how many shots did Corporal Schofield fire without reloading? Eight or nine by my count from a 10 shot Lee-Enfield MLRE rifle. He was seen 'charging' his rifle with a stripper clip near the start of the film, so I can't fault it.
Others have critisized the ethnic diversity of the film (which is minor, one or two non 'white' tommies and a British Empire Indian separated from his regiment). This has been commented on Twitter. It is worth reading the comments by WW1 historian Dr Selena Daly on this. Again, I find no fault.
1917 compresses many experiences of the Great War into a fraction under two hours. Yes, there are a few compromises as the story is comressed into that time slot and yes, some parts are a little over the top (pun intended). It tells an interesting and mostly believeable story, it has engaging characters and quite a few twists.
Overall, I'd highly recommend it. Some parts of it were shocking (the corpses), but rightly so. Go see it! I'm seeing it again, with my friend Chris K. I just hope he doesn't laugh out loud, like he did when we watched John Wick 3!