Every year there are a handful of movies that are released in 2019, but are not released wide enough for me to see until 2020. I place those films on their own special list at the Year in Review in December. I think I have found the film that will be at number one on that list.
1917 is a masterpiece.
Absolutely 100% brilliant from the start to the finish. Director Sam Mendes (Skyfall, Road to Perdition, American Beauty) has created a film that is powerful, poignant, emotional and gorgeous (as well as sadly dour at times).
Two young British soldiers (Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay) are sent on a mission during World War I behind enemy lines to try and prevent other troops from being led into a German trap.
That’s all I’m telling you about the story. It is such a wondrous film that you want to go in with as little prior knowledge as you can to really appreciate what the actors and the production team was able to accomplish.
Both Chapman and MacKay do outstanding jobs as the two young soldiers, determined to struggle to get the message through. We learn about these characters through their dialogue and actions, amazingly showing us who these two men are without telling us in needless exposition.
The imagery of the war was breathtaking. There are so many horrific images around here that there can be no mistaking the terrible price of war. The entire trip is filled with tension and creates a distinct feeling of anxiety in the audience that you are never sure what is going to happen.
The story is simple, but the simplicity of the story is what made this so amazing. It did not require plot twists and surprises because what they have is so powerful on its own. Gigantic stakes in both emotion and physical.
Recently inducted EYG Hall of Famer Roger Deakins is utterly perfection in his cinematography in this film. The shots are totally brilliant and tell the story in such an unbelievable way.
The one thing that I found a bit shaky was the whole “one-shot” technique that the movie was filmed in because early on in the film, I was looking for the places that were where the filmmakers would have the cuts. That was a little distracting at times early and felt a tad gimmicky. However, those feelings disappeared as we continued on into the movie and that technique helped create a distinct audience feeling that we were right there with the actors. So while at first I was distracted, I get used to it and it really helps the storytelling.
1917 is a master class in technical film making. It is also completely thrilling, emotionally compelling and beautifully shot movie that really should be seen at the theater. It was one of the best movies released in 2019. Now that it is released wide in 2020, do yourself a favor and go see this masterpiece.