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Friday, January 17, 2020

1917 2019 * * * Stars

1917Director: Sam Mendes
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Benedict Cumberbatch

It was September of 1999. I was sitting in a South Bend, IN movie theater watching the domestic dysfunction that is American Beauty. Its director (Sam Mendes) won an Oscar that year and I was thinking to myself, "this guy might have something". Cut to twenty years later and Mendes is back with the on the mark yet sometimes tedious, 1917 (my latest review).

Sam's 1917 has to do with World War I (hence the title). Two British soldiers named Tom Blake and Will Schofield (played wonderfully by Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay) have to deliver a message to the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. Said message is for the Devonshire Regiment to call off a planned attack that could save the lives of 1600 men.

Image result for 1917 movie scenesReflecting on 1917, I was reminded of two filming techniques done in two different movies by the same director. The movies in question are The Revenant and Birdman and they are helmed by Mexico City's own Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Mendes takes a page out of Inarritu's gifted, how-did-they-film-that playbook. He shoots 1917 in almost one continuous take and his camerawork is surrounding, provocative, and completely encircling. The camera is rather a stalker that stalks in panoramic fashion, every single movement by the actors. It's an impressive feat if not a gimmick and you wonder if 1917 would be totally conventional had it not been for Sam's audacious trickery.

Wonderment and impeccable dramatic timing aside, 1917 isn't brutally rabid like other war pics. It's also shot low to the ground with its WWI trenches immersing as staunch main characters. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is lush, wide lens-ed, and wholly canvassed. Finally, 1917's ending is the best part because it's a culmination and a journey evoking real vehemence. Will 1917 win some Academy Awards next month? I thinking yeah. Out of ten nominations it sure as heck better. Rating: 3 stars.

Image result for 1917 movie scenesOf note: Check out the final credits in which you realize that the paternal grandfather of Sam Mendes (Alfred Mendes) actually served in the First World Wars. That is in a word, inspiring.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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