I will admit I have not seen 2019’s Best Picture winner, Parasite. But then again, up until recently, I would wager most of the Academy had not seen Parasite, either. By now, that may have changed since the film has become more available, even when eighty percent of the country is on lockdown. But when the awards season was in full bloom, Parasite had only opened in New York and Los Angeles. 1917 also had been shown in limited areas of the country, to be fair. But for me, Parasite or no Parasite, there was no film that came close to the emotional impact of 1917. This was, by far, the best film of 2019. In all full disclosure, 1917 received was nominated for ten Oscars, of which it won three. Roger Deakins won his second Oscar in a row (he won last year for Blade Runner 2049) for cinematography and deservedly so. It also won for visual effects and sound mixing. So it was recognized for its excellence but not enough, in my opinion.
It was deserving of more actual awards by the Academy.
1917 deserved wins for Best Picture, Director, Best Original Screenplay and Score. But the Academy had other plans. Regardless, 1917 is an amazing film about two young soldiers Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) sent behind enemy lines in World War I to deliver an emergency message to a battalion of British soldiers who are readying for an attack on Hun positions. Thinking the Huns (Germans) are on the retreat, the British are walking into a trap and will be slaughtered. One of which is Blake’s brother. Since the attack is happening on the following morning these two Lance Corporals will have to hustle through the Hun lines, booby trapped trenches, enemy planes which all slow up their mission.
Sam Mendes said in an interview that he culled together this story based on stories his grandfather told him who fought in the trenches of World War I. The script, which was penned by Mendes and Scottish screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns thrust us into the action almost from the first scene but give these two main performers enough personality that I was totally invested in their characters and their mission. 1917 does not waste any time on preaching virtue or the hellish existence of war. It shows enough horrors and simply lets the story unfold. As for the two leads, Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay have been perfectly cast and their performances are superb. 1917 is a riveting and compelling film from the first scene to the final shot, propelled by their performances.
Upon researching the background of this film before I saw it, the filmmakers and actors rehearsed for six months before a frame of film was shot. Planning with models to get the shadows of the night filmed perfectly, down to how many steps the actors needed to complete a scene, not a single trench was built until everything was planned out. Shot almost exclusively in one shot for each scene, not one set was reused. Cinematographer Deakins and Director Mendes knew exactly what story they wanted to tell and they have executed this story to perfection. Thomas Newman, who has scored all previous films directed by Sam Mendes, has delivered another Oscar worthy score. Beautiful, poignant, sad, thrilling and exciting, Newman never disappoints. 1917 shows just how much hard work, planning and care pay off. Sam Mendes has dedicated this film to his grandfather, Alfred, who sadly passed away in 1991. I am positive, Alfred would be proud of the result of all his grandson’s hard work. 1917 is a tremendous achievement and not to be missed.
1917 – ***** out of 5
1917 – Rated R for language, graphic violence, some gore
1917 – Run time is 118 minutes
1917 is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscriptions services.