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Author Topic: 1917  (Read 204 times)
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« on: March 06, 2020, 04:21:46 PM »

Sam Mendes' Oscar nominated movie is a wonderful technical achievement, but ultimately falls flat.  Usually you want a film's special effects to service the story, but here it's clear that the effect - in this case the appearance of one continuous shot - was primary.

It's not that 1917 is a bad film - at times it's quite exciting, a sort of D&D sub-module set during WWI - but because the story has to be so linear and simple, it's very clear the movie exists only to prove director of photographer Rodger Deakins is the best DP alive (hint - he is).

The film's hurt not only by the simple story - maybe a half hour's worth if it were shot/edited normally - but also by a cast that's not terribly interesting.  Perhaps if Collin Firth or Benedict Cumberbatch - both of whom have cameos - were the lead actors, I would have cared more.  But the two actual leads don't have anymore charisma then supporting actors from a summer stock theatre troupe.  They weren't awful, but neither were they terribly compelling.  I got the feeling they were cast simply because they could actually walk the entire vast set all at once without fainting rather then on their amazing acting chops.  I have no idea what their names are, and I don't particularly care to.

The other massive dis-service is how the war is portrayed.   WWI was one thing and one thing only - a pointless meat grinder.  This film has virtually none of that horrific reality.  Even the one large, brief, battle scene is remarkably bloodless.  We never so much as see a single machine gun bullet fired, and it was the full auto machine gun that did most of the killing in WWI.  No gas attacks either, and again it's this sort of attack which made the war so infamous. Virtually no blood, and even the trenches look fairly clean.  There's epic desolation, but only long after the battles have happened - the trenches themselves look cleaner then any street in San Francisco.

As a war - or antiwar - film, 1917 never really captures the horrors of The Great War.

Which is too bad, because WWI doesn't really have a modern version worth a shit.  That's no doubt because the war is so uncompelling, but there has to be some sort of commercial story based in reality.  Sadly, this film is not it.  While it is absolutely brilliant for its camera work, it's that same camera work which knee capped the film from the very start.  1917 plays almost like a fan film, or a demo reel more then a serious war film, even though it does take it self seriously.  

Beyond it's simplicity and nearly bloodless portrayal of one of the bloodiest events in human history, there are clunky first draft elements of the film that make no sense at all, primarily an encounter with a woman & child in the middle of hell zone where civilians would have long before exited.  It felt like Mendes simply ran out of realistic things to happen, and went with whatever popped into his head first, topping it off with a too clever to be true tie-in from a previous scene.  All in all, a frustrating experience because Mendes was clearly passionate about the project, but his chosen technique was ultimately a crippling decision.

See it for the costumes, sets, and camera work but not for much else.

BOTTOM LINE:  3 "ROPE meets HARDCORE HENRY" out of 5 stars.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2020, 12:25:33 PM by jdv » Logged

...Nothing like being around animals, fixing things. There's nothing like being in the field with the corn and the winter wheat. The greenest stuff you ever saw.
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