1917 – Amazing War Film with a Lot of Heart

Welcome to 2020 people – hope everyone is getting into the swing of things and is trying to enjoy being back at work. I have been in this writing slump for weeks now and just haven’t wanted to do anything that requires thinking. Call it bushfire fatigue, or plain laziness, there isn’t any excuse. But it’s time to get my head out of my botbot and get back into it. First film on the chopping block is 1917, it won Best Film and Best Director recently at the Golden Globes and this week received 10 well deserved Oscar nominations in a truly hideously nominated year for the Academy.

Each year I loathe the Academy more and more, this saddens me as since I was a kid I have looked up to them as being the ultimate in film awards and a respectable institution that is about the best of cinematic art. As I grow more cynical I see it more as a marketing campaign for studios and it doesn’t respect art, it respects a boys club and what they do. Don’t get me wrong – there are a LOT of films in the Oscars this year that deserve to be there but the exclusions are gobsmaking and I truly can’t forgive the Oscars for no Taron Egerton nomination and none for Great Gerwig either – I mean WTF Oscars???

OK – rant over – let’s discuss the truly wonderful cinema achievement that is 1917. It is out now from the wonderful folks at Universal. It is rated MA15+ and runs for 119mins. It’s playing everywhere and will truly benefit from the biggest screen you can find.

1917 George MacKay
George MacKay

BY JASON KING

1917 SYNOPSIS:

Schofield (George McKay) and Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), two young British soldiers during the First World War, are given a seemingly impossible mission. With time against them, they must deliver a message, deep in enemy territory, that will stop their own men, and Blake’s own brother, walking straight into a deadly trap and being slaughtered.

1917 Dean-Charles Chapman
Dean-Charles Chapman

BRAVO SAM MENDES:

War movies are a dime a dozen; films that show us an imaginative look into what our ancestors or current friends and family go through defending our country, or fighting for governments using men as pawns. None of us can truly imagine the horror of going to war. My grandfather did it, most people will have family that have done it, and everyone who has had family who has seen battle in war will know it isn’t something you can get over. Sam Mendes’s grandfather went to war and he wrote a book about it. “The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991.” – it is this book that Mendes was inspired to make a film out of, it is also the first time Sam Mendes is also credited as the writer. And what we got was something so personal, so effecting that it is nominated for 10 Academy Awards.

The hook for 1917 and the thing that makes it so personable that it puts you in the frame with the actors is the technical wonder of filming the movie to look like one single take from start to finish. It is damned clever and you never leave the lead actors, like EVER!

DEAKINS IS A LEGEND!

The technical achievements will win all the awards. To get the look, the feel of a one-take film, the actors spent six months rehearsing every line and movement to keep it as fluid as possible. The pacing of the one shot is unrelenting – it gives the film its pulse that quickens with each frame and by the end you are almost having a heart attack watching the final dash. Huge applause must go to Roger Deakins, who I feel can add his second Oscar this year. Deakins has shot everything from THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN to SKYFALL – he is a master of the lens and it shows on the screen.

God knows how he managed to keep a camera with the actors in a lot of scenes – how did a camera get through all the barbed wire? Go Swimming with George MacKay and smoothly pan over water filled, dead body filled, bomb craters? Pure genius!

Further shout out goes to editor Lee Smith – the entire single cut was up to him to make look realistic on screen and he will get his own Oscar this year.

  • 1917 Colin Firth
  • 1917 Mark Strong
  • 1917 Andrew Scott
  • 1917 Benedict Cumberbatch

NOT YOUR TYPICAL WAR MOVIE:

I adored this movie, mainly because I love the two lead actors, but also the technicality appealed and the sheer amount of heart and emotion in the film, most delivered without lines. My viewing partner didn’t like it. He is a fan of Michael Bay styled with films with heavy explosions and over the top warfare – 1917 doesn’t do that. It does have explosions but they are used sparingly, this gets into the minds of the leads, it is about brotherhood against insurmountable odds in a race against the clock. Like Gallipoli (the movie) this is all about getting that message across the line and saving thousands of people, that is it. Get there or die trying because you will never live with the alternative.

The film doesn’t need any bombastic metaphorical screams to get movie lovers’ attention – it simply presents an artistic, harrowing, look at the story and the rest follows. But if you want FAST AND THE FURIOUS war edition this might not be the film for you. You should also be warned the film can be quite graphic, this adds to the despair and heartbreak of war but may be hard to swallow for some people.

1917 tells a great story but it doesn’t share any historic elements about WW1. This is a personal fictional story not trying to tell historic fact about the war, it is about to tell a tiny little side story of two players in WW1 and how it effects them. These are only two players in the war who meet a lot of others on their journey but now imagine the tens of thousands or soldiers………..they all have their own story.

1917 George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman
George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman

THE TWO LEADS HAVE CAREER DEFINING PERFORMANCES:

I have been banging on about George MacKay for years, he is one of the most underrated actors of his generation and 2020 will be the year he becomes a household name. On the same day 1917 released the film THE TRUE STORY OF THE KELLY GANG (review coming this weekend) released on a limited release before it hits STAN on Australia Day. Both performances are award worthy. Chances are you already know who he is. Have you seen SUNSHINE ON LEITH, PRIDE, HOW I LIVE NOW, CAPTAIN FANTASTIC or OPHELIA? He’s in all of them – he was even a kid in PETER PAN, playing Curly back in 2003.

Partnering with MacKay is Dean-Charles Chapman, but you probably know him as Tommen Baratheon, one of the many kings from Game of Thrones. His career is on a meteoric rise since GoT. He appeared in BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, THE COMMUTER, THE KING, INTO THE BADLANDS and will soon be in HERE ARE YOUNG MEN with Travis Fimmel. His acting steals the camera in the first half of the film, it is his brother they are racing to save, humorously played by one of his greatest enemies on GoT, Robb Stark aka Richard Madden.

MacKay and Chapman are the leads and the camera never leaves them but the film is spotted with the strongest cameo support cast in history. Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott and Benedict Cumberbatch to list the most known. All wonderful highlights when they appear with their powerful but brief performances.

George MacKay
George MacKay

THE FINAL DASH:

1917 is more than a technical gimmick of filmmaking achievements, it is a war movie with a lot of heart, pacing that may leave you anxious and performances that will have you sobbing, cheering and possibly praying. It is a sight to see that demands a big cinema and an epic sound system.

SALTY’S POP SCORE:

KERNEL ELIE’S POP SCORE:

YOUR CRITIC:

Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. A movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict he is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. 

He believes all it takes to make a good movie is a bloody good story, with a little luck the rest should fall in line. He is getting a little sick of saying “story story story” in his reviews with so much shite releasing in the last decade. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.