Devin Carter, Correspondent
Sam Mendes’ ‘’1917’’ (2019) is one of the best films to be released in the last several years and should stand among the finest war movies ever made. Telling the story of two British soldiers who set out on a mission to warn a battalion of soldiers that they are marching into a trap set by the Germans, this movie takes viewers on a gripping, stimulating ride.
Taking a page from the film “Birdman” (2014), “1917” is shot to make it seem as if the camera never cuts, and we therefore get to experience all of the events of the story as if it is happening in a continuous, fluid motion. This is incredibly effective, allowing viewers to become more caught up in the drama and intensity of the story as it unfolds.
And this is unquestionably one of the most intense films this reviewer has ever seen, and its various twists and turns give it a feeling similar to that of a roller coaster in regard to the feelings it manages to bring out. More so than perhaps any other film released in the past several years, “1917” is a movie that demands to be seen in a nice movie theater, so that all of the action and suspense, in conjunction with the film’s one-shot style, can be felt in the most impactful way.
The greatest war movies are those that show the horrors of war. They are, ironically, usually the ones that do the best job of presenting an anti-war message to their audience. “1917” does a better job of showing the sheer brutality of war than any other film I have seen. Life comes cheap in this movie, and despite the attachments that are made for various characters, the blunt reality that death that accompanies every war is never far from our minds as we bear witness to the horrors these young men are forced to endure. And the fact that Mendes manages to display these terrifying scenes throughout the movie and yet never have his film feel over-the-top is a remarkable achievement.
If there is any criticism to be given, it would be that the film lacks a particularly compelling story, and never tries to analyze the war and its impact on the minds of the characters who are fighting in it. But that is not to say that it is entirely ineffective in this regard. The sheer level of tension that is felt throughout the movie more than supplements the absence of any descriptions of mental impacts brought by the war, and there are various interactions that at the very least hint at some of the trauma that the fighting has left ingrained within our protagonists. And the numerous scenes of soldiers facing possible death head-on is more than powerful enough for viewers to take away the film’s simple message: That war is hell, and that it takes a major toll on those who are forced to fight in it.
After recovering from the adrenaline rush that this movie managed to fill me with, I found myself appreciative of those who have fought in armed conflicts before, as well as those who will fight in future engagements. Movies have previously made me examine the subject of war based on the toll it takes on the minds of those who are involved, but never before has a movie made me feel so strongly for the lives lost, as well as for those who lose loved ones. There are multiple scenes that deal with loss, and each one is like a gut punch from the screen. This thrill ride of a movie is an unforgettable, rewarding experience, but it is also a very moving depiction of some of the most difficult human trials. Films like “1917” are why I love the movies, and every movie fan should see it while it is still in theaters.