MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
“It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.” – Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman
General Sherman knew what he was talking about back in the days of the Civil War and writers, poets, musicians, playwrights and filmmakers have been revisiting that theme throughout history.
1917 is just the latest film to show us the pain and the insanity of the battlefield, in a way that is intentionally immersive. With their radio lines down, two young British soldiers are sent by their commanding officers to deliver a warning to a nearby company to cease troop movement; they are heading into a trap set up by the Germans that will likely cost hundreds of casualties. Corporal Schofield (MacKay) is first summoned for duty and then told to enlist the help of Corp. Blake (Chapman) (whose brother is in the endangered company). Their mission will take them through the trenches, into No Man’s Land, and beyond.
What makes this movie unique is its design as a two-hour continuous tracking shot. As Schofield and Blake talk to each other, receive their orders and go about their mission, the audience is with them every step of the way, in real time, through the mud and the muck, over hills and dead bodies, in and out of danger, one moment of danger followed by a moment of respite and then another challenge.
The two lead actors are both quite good, but the screenplay denies them backstories that would have turned them into real persons. And – let’s face it – this is a far-fetched assignment. If this information was so critical, why leave it to the random chance that two young officers could pull it off? Why not send out a few other teams and increase your odds?
There are moments of real pain and hardship along the way, but these are outnumbered by near-misses as well as incidents that stretch credibility while manipulating the audience with forced sentimentality (including a really corny musical moment).
While there is certainly some challenging camerawork involved (with the great cinematographer Roger Deakins onboard) in this “one shot wonder”, there is also a lot of CGI used to ramp up the effects and stitch the pieces of story together. This is WWI envisioned as a superhero event movie.
When the dust settles and the gunfire ceases, there is absolutely nothing in 1917 that hasn’t been done better in other antiwar films (including Saving Private Ryan and All Quiet on the Western Front). I would highly recommend 2018’s They Shall Not Grow Old, the moving documentary from Peter Jackson that blended archival and restored WWI footage with an oral history from British soldiers who fought in that great and terrible war.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Three halos: A visually impressive depiction of the folly of war.
Three pitchforks: Extreme war violence, including dead bodies; occasional swearing; smoking.
Do you have comments about this movie or movie review? E-mail your comments. (Your name and UM affiliation must be supplied in order for your comments to be posted.)
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
E-mail comments. (Comments will be posted to our web site.)
The East Ohio Conference Office:
located in North Canton, OH,
near Akron-Canton Airport.
8800 Cleveland Ave. NW
North Canton, OH 44720
Local: (330) 499-3972
Toll Free: (800) 831-3972
Fax: (330) 499-3279
Monday through Friday
8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
© EAST OHIO CONFERENCE. All Rights Reserved.