Film Review: 1917 (2019)

A brown flagIt’s morning and the sky is gray with muted colors. The solders have no villain to blame and the greatest longing of everyone is to go home. Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) get called and they take on the mission.

The film’s sole vision of life is a nameless baby in a devastated city. The protagonists have Friendship, Loyalty, Brotherhood and Courage. It isn’t much, but it is what they need to charge past the rats and snipers and barbed wire and dead bodies.

1917 suggests that the audience recall the despair so that today’s challenges are not so oppressive.

Cinematographically, the movie is flowing and continuous. Much of the film is a single continuous shot. Most colors are chosen to have a low saturation. The screen is filled with browns and blacks, tans and grays. The result is a draining sadness.

1917 is full of sadness. The stark beauty of the devastation and the heightened emotions are what make the movie both repulsive and beautiful at the same time. One’s mind absorbs tension and danger from the screen. The bland colors are a muted reminder of how the extraordinary can become ordinary.

The spectacle follows winding trenches and broken walls. As the critical battle is approaching, a soldier is singing an incongruously beautiful song. Then, the urgency is redoubled as the mission might fail despite the herculean journey.

1917 is a really beautiful film. It successfully aspires to be a great work of art.

Don’t go when you want to have fun or to get joy and hopefulness. All I could do by the end was weep in empathy as Schofield looks at his distant family, hoping one day to return. As I listened to the closing credits pass, I was ready for change.

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