1917 proved to be an amazing experience. I heard the film was special because it was made to look like a single sequence, but nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.
If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, two soldiers are given orders during World War I to let a commander know that he must cease his impending attack–that it’s a trap. If the two men fail to deliver this message, thousands could die, including one of the men’s big brother.
The story of the film unfolds as you would probably imagine without any real surprises, but that’s not what this movie is really about. Not to me, at least.
Instead it’s the way that the movie is shot that makes it so extraordinary. First of all, like I said, it is made to appear as though it is one single shot. In other words, there are no obvious cuts. The film’s story runs mostly in real time. They got a bit clever with one moment which allowed for several hours to pass, but otherwise it’s happening as you sit in the theater. You really can’t envision what a “no cut” movie looks like until you see it for yourself. It’s mesmerizing. The camera must track around the characters, move in front of them, then behind them, then next to them–it’s beautiful.
Furthermore, 1917 shows you the horror of not just war, but WWI in particular. You are drudging through those trenches with the men, you are crawling over the dead, decaying bodies, you are avoiding bullets by mere inches and blind luck–you are right there, just over the characters’ shoulders, for all of it. The rubble, the ruined countryside, the dead soldiers and animals littering the ground and half-buried in craters–it’s awful. Yet, from a production standpoint, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen better. Even the costumes and props were incredible.
From a purely technical standpoint, 1917 deserved to win Best Picture. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I did not connect with the main characters all that much, nor can I say that the actors gave particularly breathtaking performances. Now, to be fair, it’s hard to be too poignant in a film that is moving at a breakneck pace with the actors either walking or running almost the entire time, but the story never quite captured my heart.
Even with that being said, however, I consider 1917 required viewing. For the casual patron, it will thrill you. For those interested in the art of film making, it will revolutionize your ideas of what’s possible.