1917

1917 (Sam Mendes, 2019) wr. Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns, dp Roger Deakins; Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays

It's a road movie. Man delivers message. With a few delays along the way. For not very plausible reasons. I'm thinking of the sequence involving the German plane, and another scene with a French girl. The latter is a cliche from a different movie - such as the one called A Soldier's Tale for example, tho there are many others. I'll bet that soppy scene was conceived or mostly written or both by the female member of the writing team.

Technically, it's most impressive, and Roger Deakins should win a second Oscar. (He should have half a dozen by now.) But as a story, it's ... well, it's merely straightforward.

I didn't think Thomas Newman's musical style was right for this film. I think it would have been more appropriate in a space epic or dystopian scifi flick. Far too much foreboding. Far too much music, for that matter.

Another implausibility occurs to me. When the messenger reaches the men he's supposed to save he finds them all sitting in a series of circles around a solo singer giving a rendition of 'I am a poor wayfaring stranger'. This is a body of Englishmen, who are about to go into perhaps their final battle. Why the hell would they be listening in such intense silence to a guy singing an American song? By the way, the sequence lasts long enough that he would have sung the song at least twice and probably more. Also, he ends with the first stanza - just so that we're quite sure which song it is.

Another one. When the messenger finally convinces the Major or whatever rank he is that he should not send his men into the field, he, the officer, orders them to 'stand down'. I'm probably showing my complete ignorance of military matters, to which I'm happy to confess, but I can't see how they can 'stand down' when we've just spent the last fifteen minutes watching hundreds of them going < that way. I have no idea how they could be recalled, if that's what 'stand down' means.

Going back to the German plane, seeing I'm littering these notes with spoilers. We see the plane get shot down by two English planes. It's goes down, trailing smoke, in a straight line, ending behind a hill, and we're waiting for the explosion when, what the?... it appears over the hill and comes straight for our heroes, crashing into the building next to which they're standing. So they have to deal with the pilot, and it doesn't end well.

Kevin Maher in The Times: "Sam Mendes delivers the film of his career by mashing up the survivalist thrills of The Revenant with the helter-skelter mayhem of a shoot-’em-up video game, and setting it during the Great War. The resulting two hours of amphetamine-rush cinema is a monumental technical achievement and, instantly, an awards-season behemoth. ... It is all energy, all rush and all dramatic thrust (even the quieter scenes pulse with tension), deftly produced by a formal style that gives the impression of one single continuous travelling shot, but is actually the result of long camera takes (six to eight minutes each) seamlessly stitched together in postproduction. Inevitably, part of the fun is trying to spot the joins. I’ve seen it twice, and bar a single fade-to-black at 70 minutes and one backpack that is pushed suspiciously close to the lens (close enough to allow an unseen edit), only the exceptionally keen-eyed will absorb this as anything other than a rolling, charging, jumping, diving non-stop action extravaganza. ... There are reportedly only 20 lines of dialogue in the last 45 minutes of the movie."

Sam Mendes >

Peter Debruge in Variety: "Perhaps its Mendes’ theatrical side that can’t resist the temptation to bring 1917 full circle, back to a viewpoint that rhymes, ironically, with the film’s opening frame. That intellectually driven choice underscores what a different filmmaker he is from Spielberg or Nolan, with Mendes looking to imprint some kind of poetic sensibility on the technical accomplishment we’ve just witnessed. Astonishing as the filmmaking can be at times, it’s Mendes’ attention to character, more than the technique, that makes 1917 one of 2019’s most impressive cinematic achievements."

Anonymous director and Academy voter, quoted by IndieWire: "You’ve got returning Oscar alumnus Sam Mendes doing his best film ever. That’s a stunning movie. Even though some people think it’s a technical exercise, it does hit home emotionally in way that is clearly speaking to a lot of people. For a World War I film on the scale of Dunkirk to have made $100 million already domestically is extraordinary. It’s a cinematic experience. These three different films – Quentin’s most ambitious of his crime comedies, Bong Joon Ho’s Korean thriller box-office smash, and a World War I film that has to be seen on the big screen–mark a push back against the idea of cinema being dead."


Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 10 January, 2020 | Now: 31 January, 2020