1917 ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

***One Minor Spoiler***

Sam Mendes clearly loves Apocalypse Now. Jarhead had a couple of nods to it and now 1917 continues that tribute. It is similarly about a desperate mission to find a military leader and the stops along the journey that show us many facets of a war. There's also an evocative use of shadows at times, mirroring the way Brando was captured in Coppola's classic.

But 1917 is no masterpiece. It may want to be as profound - it's about the journey, but the destination - but despite showing many sides of World War One 1917 is so obsessed with its one-shot concept that it ends with nothing really to say. It's flashy but rarely has substance. The writing is also atrocious, overloaded with forced dialogue performed theatrically, leading to contrivance and cheese that doesn't match the raw aesthetic. The overarching structure of 1917 is spectacular but the specifics don't really work.

However 1917 is absolutely mind-blowing as a technical piece. The combination of unrelenting sound and uncut visuals so evocatively capture the setting than it makes for an intense and believable journey. Towards the end, when the lead character runs out of the trenches, the weight of circumstance, the perfect use of music and imagery, and the sheer power of the story, creates an emotional burst that saves the film. In that sequence of heroism, 1917 justifies itself. It may be Dunkirk lite in many respects (a British war story told with a time gimmick, tense score, classical stylings, and unbelievable technical proficiency) but 1917 is so skilfully put together that it manages a genuine emotional pull despite its silly limitations.

Side-note 1: 1917 is a terrible title.

Side-note 2: I considered applying to be an extra on this film. My friend wanted to do it and forwarded me the application. It wasn't super convenient for me though so I never even sent it off.

2019 Ranked
Academy Award for Best Picture Nominees Ranked

Darren liked these reviews