MOVIE REVIEW: 1917 (2019)

Mr O and I don’t get to see loads of films in the cinema but after seeing a trailer for 1917 and reading all the hype surrounding it, we decided it was worth drumming up some babysitting. Mr O is a bit of a war buff and it is a genre we both enjoy so it seemed like a good choice.

In the throes of World War I the British Army believe they have the Germans on the run. However new intelligence shows that the “Hun” are in fact making a tactical retreat with the intention of luring the entire Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment into a trap that will annihilate them. In order to call off the attack General Ennimore (Colin Firth) decides to send two Lance Corporals on a daring mission across no man’s land and the now abandoned German territory to hand deliver the orders.

Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) is chosen because his brother (Richard Madden) is a member of the company and his friend, Will Schofield (George MacKay) is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now the two will need to race against the clock as well as face untold horrors in the abandoned German trenches and beyond.

Much has been made of the fact that this film was shot to mimic one single take and you can’t take anything away from that. It looks spectacular and it’s deeply engrossing. There is never a moment where you’re not on the edge of your seat and often you feel like you’re almost in the film. George MacKay works flat out in a role that requires endless physicality and a kind of mute expression of the horrors of war and little is done to shy away from the unmitigated grimness. I am thinking in particular of one scene with a corpse, if you’ve seen it, you’ll know the one. It’s also abundantly evident that no one’s mental health is really holding up under the assault… special call out to Andrew Scott for bringing his usual manic energy to Lieutenant Leslie.

But…. I have heard several reviewers claim this is the greatest war film ever made. I am not sure what lead them to this conclusion, maybe it was the first war film they’d ever seen.

I have always enjoyed stories that are character driven and you don’t really get to know Schofield at all in this film. I found it hard to get deeply emotionally invested because I didn’t know what motivated him. I felt slightly more invested in Blake but the balance seemed off. Without exception the various officers were almost immediately more interesting than Schofield. Maybe relying on such big cameos was a mistake.

I enjoyed the film but was left wondering “so what”? I didn’t learn anything new or feel anything big. I guess the sort of vidoegamification of war is what some viewers really enjoyed but I wanted something more.

I’ll leave this at exciting but forgettable. Hit me up in the comments if you want some better recommendations. Let’s debate our favourite war films… unless this is one of your faves, in which case, I’m out!

3/5

9 Comments

  1. As you know, I reviewed this last week, and liked it a little more than you did, simply for the cinematography, visuals, and sets. I would give it 4/5, but I think anyone who waits to watch it on TV or DVD will miss out on a ‘cinematic experience’.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. I think it suffered from being so hyped. I went in with really high expectations and kept waiting to feel something… and I just didn’t.

  2. I’m not into war films, so I likely won’t see it. But, I don’t rule it out.

    Maybe critics think it’s so great, because I heard that it was shot in one continuous motion? I’m not sure what that means, but perhaps because it was a war story filmed in a unique way? 🤷‍♀️ I don’t know. I’m just guessing. Like I said, war movies are not a genre I really care for anyway.

    Glad you were able to get a night out together, at least.

    1. I think it definitely depends on what is most important to you when it comes to a genre. For me a war film should be all about character development rather than style. I want to be emotionally invested… and I just wasn’t.

      We didn’t even get much time out. It was a matinee!

  3. Thank you for your take on this Abbi!

    1. Thank you for stopping by to read it!

  4. I loved it. I’m sure being in the cinema helped me. A lot of war movies feel like a video game and you felt that, but I didn’t feel it. I guess there was enough pauses to catch your breath and look at the surroundings. I liked MacKay’s performance very much. I thought his body language was perfect for communicating his feelings. I would give it 4.5 out of 5.

    1. I think you’re in the majority, Cindy as it seems to have connected with most people. I did see it in the cinema but something just didn’t quite stick for me.

  5. I think you hit this one on the head, really. I really like the film, but the characters stood in the way for me loving it. Though, I started to feel something for Schofield when he spent time with that woman in that little town.

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