Photo courtesy of Universal.
“1917” is an Oscar-winning movie of 2020 whose awards are well-deserved. The movie is a war-time drama based on World War I and, as the title suggests, is set in the year 1917. It follows two characters, Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) as they are tasked with completing an impossible mission.
Schofield is a quiet, blunt man. He reads as the kind of person who would tell you what is wrong with you when given the chance. Blake, on the other hand, is desperate to be a war hero, in stark contrast to Schofield. Schofield states he traded one of his medals for a bottle of wine, whereas Blake could never imagine doing such a thing. Schofield describes it as a “a piece of tin, with a ribbon attached to it.”
Schofield and Blake are in the British army, where they are pitted against the Germans. At the time, the Germans had newer technology and were becoming an unstoppable force. The mission assigned to these two soldiers was to deliver a message in less than 24 hours, traveling by foot for nine miles. The message contains instructions to call off an attack on the German army, as it was actually a trap.
Some viewers have noted the movie as gruesome, and though I would not call it gruesome, I can see why some would say that— a severed limb, a dead horse, a group of bodies. Truly, it adds to the environment of a wartime movie, bringing setting to life. But those moments should not deter you from watching the movie. The cinematography is stellar and the storytelling is incredible.
Though the plot is rather simple, it works. It is a story of comradery and completing an arduous mission. The point that makes the narrative stick was more the gimmicks than the actual story. The plot is driven by the effects of the shots and the aftermath of the events happening more than what actually happened.
Filmed in one continuous shot, the movie creates mood and conveys tone in a new way. The one-shot style makes viewers feel like they are a soldier with the characters. I felt as though I was walking right behind Blake and Schofield when the camera was moving. New angles were taken by steadily turning the camera around characters and scenery. Viewers can see and react to scenes, just as the characters would. It adds new depth to the movie experience, and there was not a single point in the film where I was bored.
The movie picks up right away; there is no dilly-dallying. It begins with Blake and Schofield napping in a meadow. The scene is calm, but the tone quickly changes to confusion. Soon, that confusion becomes panic. Blake and Schofield are alerted by their general that they have an urgent message to send. And for Blake, the stakes are high. His brother is part of this battalion.
Viewers will notice in moments like this, the music will fade into the background. And all the music is similar, and can be identified as steady, stressed, intense or wartime music.
The music adjusts smoothly, fitting the tone of the movie perfectly. Depending on the scenario, the music transitions to more eerie or suspenseful music, or even sorrowful music, setting the mood for a loss. There is only one (memorable) scene where music is not playing.
In some scenes, however, music was not necessary. In the beginning of the movie when Schofield and Blake were in an enemy bunker, music was playing loudly. The events and actions made walking through this bunker were stressed and the music was very distracting. It took away from the overall effect of the scene.
In the end, I felt like the movie really lived up to what I had heard about it. No movie at the time really caught my eye and this movie changed that. I was dazzled by the cinematography and the plot had me on the edge of my seat. I would recommend this to anyone. In fact, writing about this movie has me shaking. Watch this movie, and you will come out feeling like you can do anything.