Story (from IMDb):April 6th, 1917. As a regiment assembles to wage war deep in enemy territory, two soldiers are assigned to race against time and deliver a message that will stop 1,600 men from walking straight into a deadly trap.
Themes: war, family, heroism, the cost of victory, perseverance
Age Appropriateness: (Rated R) Teen (13-18) and up (Deals with the very hard realities and affects of war/death/suffering).
I really liked this movie.
As many of you probably already know, what makes this WWI period movie stand out from others is how the film has been shot in a way to make it appear like it’s nearly one long take. The director of the film claims in interviews that this was done largely to ratchet up the tension (make the audience feel like there is a real ticking clock), and force the audience to really stick with the characters (making you feel for them). I think the film successfully does both of these things really well.
But what I felt the style of filming did most, was add another character to the movie. The surroundings… the location… the sets…. almost became a character itself. In many films, between the constant cuts between individuals, perspectives, wide shots, and jumping to different characters doing different things, often the location the characters are in become little more than backdrops in the frame. With the style used in 1917, I couldn’t help but take in the surroundings while following the characters since there weren’t any perceivable cuts. The places the characters walk, crawl, or run through become more significant, more real, and more important. And using this style in a war movie… I found particularly impactful.
War leaves a giant mark in its wake. Whether the movie lingering on cramped trenches, treacherous no man’s lands, leveled countrysides, or decimated cities, you couldn’t help but notice how war had an affect on everything: homes, buildings, roads, farms, and even Forrests and rivers. And as you saw how war damaged everything it touched, it became even harder not to notice how war was damaging every person it touched too (sometimes in major ways and sometimes just subtly). The bleak landscape also made the acts of compassion in the movie (both the compassion of our main characters and that of characters we only see briefly in the background) stand out even more.
I really liked this movie. It was one of those movies that I just had to sit with for a while at the end. It made me think about how terrible war is. It made me think about how hard it would be to even know what it meant to “do good” in such a place. And while it in no way compares to the horror of war, it made me think of the struggles we all face today trying to be do right in the often broken and sinful world we live.