World War 1

1917

Sam Mendes' new movie pulls no punches about the bloody, brutal reality of war.

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Sam Mendes' 1917 is a war film, yes, but also a horror film in the truest sense of the word. Death lurks behind every corner: arbitrary, horrific, and unavoidable.

The movie follows—quite literally, since it is shot and edited to appear as a single, uncut take—two young British soldiers (George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) tasked with delivering a critical message. Ten miles away, some 16,000 of their countrymen are about to launch an offensive against what appears to be a retreating German army. But new intelligence shows they will actually be charging toward new, unassailable fortifications—what World War I buffs will recognize as the Hindenburg Line. With the clock ticking, the two boys set off across no man's land and through the abandoned German trenches to stop an impending slaughter.

What follows is a stunning piece of moviemaking, thanks to Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins. The middle third, in which the war-torn fields of Flanders fade into night and are replaced by the hellscape of a ruined village bathed in artillery fire, is shattering and unforgettable.

As beautiful as it is to look at, 1917 is difficult to watch. It pulls no punches about the bloody, brutal reality of war. In an era when drone strikes and long-range missiles have semi-sanitized the act of murdering other people over territorial or ideological disputes, that makes the film's message even more essential.

NEXT: Face Values

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  1. The movie is beautifully directed, shot, and acted, but the premise is ludicrous. Still worth going to see though.

    1. Yes-there were lots of ways to get that message thru (leaving aside the fact that one of the top priorities of any unit in such a situation would have been to re-establish communication). Still enjoyed it a lot.

      The article has a fact wrong: it was 1600 soldiers, not 16,000z

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  2. 1917 – what a wonderful year!

  3. I heard it sucked.

    1. Whoever told you that is a moron.

      1. Maybe.

  4. A little late to the movie review on this one, it’s been out since December…

    1. It’s Boehm. He’s late for a lot.

    2. It seems that reviews are always critically late on this site. It’s not only out since December, but has been out of theaters for a month, even if they were still open.

  5. This movie really is fantastic.

  6. It’s 1600 troops, not 16,000. And no gas was used in the movie, 1/10 wurst movie ever.

    But no seriously, it was actually really good. The premise is a little silly if you’re a history/military nerd, but with so little focus on WW1, it’s a breath of fresh air to see something different. And whoever was in charge of the visuals deserves an award.

    1. The screencap looks really…clean…for a WW1 Western Front trench. Was the rest of the movie as antiseptic as this shot?

      Wanted to see it, despite not liking Mendes as a director.

      1. hahaha ohhhh no. No it was not. So, no major spoilers, but that scene is shot at the end where he’s reached the brand new line the British just got, and are just beginning to dig into. Early on you get to see no man’s land in all its gory glory, and they do a very good job of producing hell without the fire, where you have the ground that’s just been completely torn up by the constant artillery fire, and the rotting bodies that have been there for days, weeks, months, getting buried and unearthed constantly by said artillery. You can get it on iTunes, that’s how I saw it.

  7. Having spent two years of my life in the sand-swept deserts of Iraq, I normally avoid war movies at all costs, but I was so intrigued with the single-take conceit of this film that I took my wife and three sons to see it. My seven-year-old was worried he wouldn’t be able to handle the violence, but after I assured him he was up to the task and showed him the behind-the-scenes featurette (which is well worth watching!), he agreed to go.

    I must say that 1917 is the closest thing to the perfect film I’ve ever seen. It reduced me to tears not once, but three times—and I’ve never wept in the theater before. This was the first time I’ve ever left the cinema with no complaints. It was that beautiful. No woke messaging, no pandering or preaching, no mindless action scenes or gratuitous computer-generated special effects. Just a damn good story packed with emotion, empathy, and humanity.

    And fuck the ivory-tower critics who whined the there wasn’t enough background story to make us care about the characters. It’s a simple story about two young been risking it all to save a brother. How much background story can you possibly need? How devoid of soul must someone be not to find that premise gripping for its own sake?

    Unlike me, probably none of those lily-livered, pencil-necked geeks ever had a brother in a war zone at the same time as him, nor did be beg his unit to be transferred to Fallujah so he could serve alongside his brother. Someone who has been through an experience like that can’t help getting swept up into a timeless tale like this.

    1. This convinced me to watch it.

    2. Have you ever seen Das Boot? Just curious if you have and how you think this compares.

      1. Oooh! That’s a great question.

        Das Boot is definitely not an antiseptic, clean war movie. I see why they gave the Best Picture to “Gandhi”, but I still think Petersen got robbed a little.

      2. „Das Boot“ hat mir ja sehr gut gefallen. Ich habe sowohl die gekürzte als auch die sechsstündige Version angesehen. Den Film habe ich sehr ergreifend gefunden, aber irgendwie hat „1917“ mich noch tiefer angerührt. Trotzdem bleibt „Das Boot“ ein zeitloser Klassiker.

        1. Sie sind Kampfveteranen und Deutscher Sprecher auch? Welch ein Zufall!

          My german is getting pretty bad.

        2. Thanks for replying (not gonna lie, used google translate).

    3. “two young men
      “nor did he beg”

      Can we please get an edit button? For heaven’s sake, Disqus is free.

      1. Disqus is free

        Not unless they have changed their terms of service – – – – – – – – –

    4. I would also recommend this film. I also am not a fan of war movies.

      When the two protagonists lock and load before going over the top the first time, I got goosebumps. The hair on my neck stood up until they were in the next trench line. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of loading live rounds before you set out for a fight. People who have done it know. Something about that little sequence was so authentic, it resonated.

      Film was great. The plot was silly, yes. But it captured the feeling of combat and mortal danger well. Visually very authentic, too.

      1. Director was Sam Mendes, he did Jarhead too. Haven’t seen Jarhead, but from what I’ve heard about it, you don’t get the full impact unless you’ve served or you’re familiar with the military. That’s part of the reason why it got mixed reviews.

        1. I actually did not care for jarhead, but then again, how interesting can a movie about first gulf war infantry be? War was over before they even got started.

    5. Not enough background? Seemed to me there was plenty of background, it was just that the director was a believer in “show, don’t tell” storytelling, rather than have the viewer listen to unrealistic dialogue by characters who should already know the information.

  8. I saw it this winter. Loved it.

  9. A lot of rats in this movie.

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