Movie Review: "1917"
The year was 1917, and World War I had already been raging for almost three years, and Britain and Germany had been fighting over a territory in France for some time. The two sides had been in somewhat of a stalemate, but German forces seemed to have pulled back. Thinking they had Germany on the run, Britain organized what they thought would be a final attack, sending in 1,600 men to attack the German forces. However, new intelligence suggested that everything may not have been as it seemed.
The new intelligence suggests that the 1,600 men could be walking into a trap. Unfortunately, communications have been lost, so the only way to stop the attack is to send two men—by foot—through no man’s land and enemy territory. It very well could be an impossible mission, but if British forces are not warned and the attack is not called off, then the 1,600 men will surely be walking into a massacre. Thus, Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) embark on what very well could be a deadly mission to hopefully make contact with the British forces before they walk into a blood bath.
The Pros & Cons
Blake & Schofield (+8pts)
Too Early (-2pts)
Intense Action (+8pts)
The Mission (+8pts)
Defend Yourself (-2pts)
Pro: Blake & Schofield (+8pts)
The dynamic between these two characters was really easy to get invested in. This was obviously important for a movie that really only had two major characters—these two characters. I could feel the brotherhood, enjoyed their chemistry, and really got a sense that the two characters were devoted to the mission and were willing to risk their lives for one another. There really is not much more to say here, other than the fact that the two actors did a really great job with their respective parts. Each had more than their share of dramatic moments, and each actor absolutely delivered. This was a dramatic, epic war movie, but it was also a personal story about two young men walking through hell together. Their companionship was easy to get invested in, and the two actors in these roles did a great job with the heavy material that they were given, while having strong chemistry together.
Con: Too Early (-2pts)
Okay, I am going to stay super vague here for the sake of staying spoiler free. With that in mind, know that there was a shocking moment in this movie that sort of changed the entire rest of the movie. The mission was still the same, and the stakes were still the same as well, but there was a shift that happened that I thought worked really well. My problem, however, was that I thought it happened too early in the movie.
It happened around the halfway point of the story, and I thought it would have served the movie in a much more impactful way if it happened right at the beginning of the third act. Instead, the filmmakers gave the audience plenty of time to move on from it. If the scene was a bit closer to the film’s conclusion, it would have been fresh enough to make more of an impact in the story's climax. I really hope I did not give anything away here—although I really do not think that I did. Just know that I liked the scene, and thought it was a really effective switch, but I thought it would have been more impactful if it was shifted closer to the story’s conclusion.
Pro: Intense Action (+8pts)
This was a war movie, so you would expect there to be intense action, and there definitely was. The movie was about two British soldiers traveling—on foot—across no-man’s land and through “abandoned” enemy territory. There was plenty of war action throughout this movie, but it was not in your face the entire time, so you will not get numb to it. Between the action, the characters are sneaking around some horrific scenes, with the possibility of German forces being around every corner.
This kept me on the edge of my seat even when action was not happening, and these quieter scenes made the action feel so much more intense. I want to be clear—before making my next statement—by saying that this movie was in no way a horror movie. However, the quieter scenes felt like when things feel too quiet in horror movies. That is what a lot of this movie felt like. There were a ton of scenes that were incredibly suspenseful, as it felt like the protagonists were just around the corner from danger. However, instead of having a monster potentially around the corner, this movie had German soldiers. The action was intense, and it was boosted by these suspenseful scenes.
Con: Convenient (-2pts)
There were a number of convenient moments and incidents throughout this movie, but there were two examples that stood out to me more than the rest. The first example occurred just after the shocking moment that I mentioned earlier. It was not what happened that I thought was convenient, but it was the oddly convenient timing that made the moment a little silly. The second example was toward the end of the movie, and was one of those moments where a character was sort of just bumbling around, almost completely unaware of his surroundings, and things just happened to go their way. Both of these moments were somewhat forgivable, as I am sure they were a result of cutting this story down and making it more cinematic, but there were enough oddly convenient moments to make them worth mentioning.
Pro: The Mission (+8pts)
This mission was an effective one, because it was simple and the stakes were high. Two men had to go warn a large group of British soldiers before they walked right into a trap. The two men had to go by foot, and if they failed it would mean the deaths of about 1,600 British soldiers. It was easy to get invested in this mission because of its simplicity and because the stakes were so high, but there was more to the mission's effectiveness than just that.
The mission also very naturally put two men in an underdog story. The odds were stacked against them, which made you want to root for them. Then there was the potential danger looming around every single corner, which made the movie very suspenseful. The mission made for a really strong plot. It was simple, it felt important, it made it easy to want to root for the protagonists, and it was filled with suspense. It was really just an all around strong premise, that hooked me quickly and kept me invested right up until the end of the movie.
Con: Defend Yourself (-2pts)
Honestly, this was not a big deal and only ended up in here because I could not think of more severe issues. That being said, there were a few moments in this movie where a character had a perfect opportunity to kill a German soldier before that soldier had the opportunity to do the same to him, but instead the character just ran away—leaving himself wide open for that German soldier to try to kill him. This happened a few times throughout the movie, and it always felt like the character was making a catastrophically bad decision. Maybe the character was against killing unless it was absolutely necessary, but that was never implied by the filmmakers, so these moments just made the character come across as dumb.
Grade: A- (93pts)
I do not think it is much of an exaggeration to say that there have been about a million war movies. Now that is not to say that they are bad, but you more or less know what to expect from them. You know to expect a fair amount of action, you know to expect a theme of brotherhood, and you know to expect a fair amount of drama. When done poorly, these movies can feel boring and over-dramatized. When done right, they can be epic dramas with compelling character stories. 1917 was one that was done right.
There was a decent amount of action, but I really liked the dynamic between the two lead characters. They made this a really easy story to get invested in, and there was even a twist around the halfway point of the movie. I had my minor issues with it, but it was a suspenseful, and interesting war story about two soldiers who went through hell together. I went into this movie with moderate expectations—knowing that the reviews were good, but that I have sat through some boring war movies that had good reviews before—but this movie crushed my expectations. It was the perfect balance between epic action, compelling drama, and edge-of-your-seat suspense. It also had a simple yet effective plot, and had two compelling characters played by two talented actors. It was a good movie that I think you will enjoy—whether you are a fan of war movies or not—and was one that I really enjoyed watching.