1917: A Technically Impressive Yet Forgettable Exercise

2.5 out of 5 stars (Decent)

Image from http://www.impawards.com/

Every few years, Hollywood will put out an awards-bait war film that usually does something unique with the genre.  In 2017, we had Dunkirk (which I never saw), and 2019 had 1917, a World War 1-set war movie notable for appearing to be done entirely in one shot.  While I respect the time and effort that went into presenting the film that way, I also think it makes the film feel far longer than it is whenever our heroes aren’t running from gunfire.  1917 is a technically impressive yet forgettable war flick that will satisfy anyone who ever wanted a boring rendition of Saving Private Ryan.

Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) are assigned to transport an order to another General calling off an intended attack on German territory.  The two men will brave harsh environments, enemy attacks, and more in a bid to relay their message before more lives are lost.

1917 is a mixed bag in every way imaginable.  The violence is gory and intense, and Chapman and MacKay are great when required to show immense pain that wrung some emotion out of me, but the one-shot gimmick makes the film drag during nonaction scenes.  While their individual performances are good, the leads lack chemistry in moments of banter and levity, and their characterization and dialogue is boilerplate at best.  On a positive note, editor Lee Smith has done a fantastic job maintaining the one-shot gimmick and the film doesn’t rely on its few celebrity cameos (which I won’t spoil).  The climax is also surprisingly moving and made me wish the road to it had been smoother.   1917’s immersive action, technical prowess, and good performances may satisfy genre fans, but its story and characters simply weren’t battle-ready.    Rent it.

Rated R for Violence and Language

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