It hadn’t even been released in the States when 1917 won best motion picture for a drama, as well as an award for the best director of a motion picture drama at the Golden Globes. If I didn’t have high hopes for the movie at this point, you can bet that I did after this award ceremony. Even typing this now after the Oscar nominations were announced last week (which 1917 tied second with 10 nominations), I’m very thankful that the film not only lived up to those hopes, but exceeded them entirely. The Sam Mendes produced film and top notch cast takes you on a horrific journey through a war torn France during the First World War that you’ll have trouble forgetting.
Before we explore roughly 4-5 of the more unforgettable scenes, the continuous shot was truly remarkable. The entire story playing out as one big scene will have you captivated by the sheer pressure these two, essentially kids, have on their shoulders. Orders given by Colin Firth, they were to warn the Second British Battalion (and thus also save a family member who was a lieutenant on the Front Line) of the inevitable German ambush. This will have you on the edge of your seat the whole 2 hour runtime, with room for little break. Jackson from our brother podcast over at At The Minute texted our group saying it “felt like 30 minutes” – and he’s completely right.
***OKAY SPOILER TIME***
There are many mesmerising scenes in this film that aren’t for the fainthearted, as well as moments of just pure awe. I’ll try not to randomly bounce around the movie, but first up was the death of King Tommen, excuse me I mean Lance Corporal Blake (played by Dean-Charles Chapman, Game of Thrones). It was Blake’s instinctive nature to help somebody when they’re about to burn to death in a grounded fighter plane, even if it’s the enemy, that led to his sad death. The following minute was tough to watch as the German pilot ultimately stabs Blake in the stomach, and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay, 11.22.63) comforts his friend as the colour fades from his face before he passes. The pilot did receive a couple of shots from Schofield to the chest before that, but you’d think that this scene would be more towards the climax of the movie right? This surprisingly wasn’t the case and leaves Schofield to complete the mission alone, and is our main focus for the remaining 45 minutes (give or take) of the film.
Next up, Schofield putting his hand through a decaying man’s chest was pretty fucking gross to be honest. That got a lot of “ews” and “aws” in the theater. Some people may disagree with me here, but that wasn’t the worst moment of the film. I think being dragged down a very aggressive river after escaping a group of Germans, to then think you have reached the riverbank which was in actual fact a MOUND of dead bodies that you were climbing over? Yeah that was more fucked up to me. Either way, both parts of the film were ridiculously uncensored to the atrocities of a World War and it definitely had that shock factor. The rating R (or 15 if you’re from my mother country), is certainly justified.
Once Schofield made it onto land, this led into my favourite scene of the film and honestly quite possibly one of my favourite scenes of all time. Unbeknownst to Schofield, he had trudged into a wooded area where a group of fellow Britons were waiting for their time to join the upcoming battle. Schofield slumps down and takes a moment to breathe and you can see the amount of pain he’s in and how physically exhausted he is. We heard a little in the trailer, but during this scene a soldier was singing “The Wayfaring Stranger” to a dead-silent group which, if you’ve experienced the film, just sends complete and utter chills down the back of your spine. The lyrics include:
“I’m going there to see my Father,
And all my loved ones who’ve gone on.”
It’s almost a prayer. These soldiers know that they’re about to enter the battle and they’re scared shitless. There is a huge chance that they’ll be joining some loved ones in death and the camera briefly shows all of these scared young men. The writing here for this was amazing.
Fighting his exhaustion and with the British attack already underway, we then get to watch the pinnacle and most intense part of the movie of Schofield sprinting through No-Man’s-Land towards the barracks of the Commander. This happened to be Benedict Cumberbatch, but the message was finally told to the Commander and he called off the attack. I’ll refrain from any more rubbish GOT jokes, but Blake’s older brother (Richard Madden, Game of Thrones) was then found to be alive and well. It was an emotional interaction as the news about his younger brother was told, and Schofield asks if he could write to their mother to reassure her that her son hadn’t died alone, rather in the arms of a friend.
As the movie comes to a close, an unanswered question posed by a French woman earlier in the movie is revealed – Schofield has a wife and two young daughters at home. You could’ve guessed that by the way Schofield acted towards the French mother and her daughter, but the last moment of the film is of our main character sitting alone by a tree, caressing a photograph of his family no doubt thinking of them. Viewers weren’t aware the entire movie what Schofield had to lose as he faced death in every direction, but we finally found out and it made the journey that more terrifying when you look back on it.
If you couldn’t tell by this short “review”, 1917 is already one of my favourite war movies. I apologise to Mark Strong (Kingsman, Shazam, Sherlock Holmes) who didn’t get a shout out but he was also in this film for 5-10 minutes to complete the stellar cast. I have no doubt that 1917 and Sam Mendes will be a frontrunner at the Oscars this February.
My Review: 8.8/10
Click here to see what Sam Mendes and a couple of the cast members had to say about the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lag5Ndqeo7Y