Review 2020 1917 January
Many family members hear the proverbial quote “war stories,” but Academy Award winning director Sam Mendes takes the process a step further by turning his grandfather’s adventures into a first-class movie that deserves to earn him another night at the Oscars. Switching gears from his Oscar-winning film American Beauty for his new movie 1917, Mendes recaptures what he heard about his grandfather’s exploits during World War One fighting Germany in the trenches. Those words, “fighting,” and “trenches” take on heightened meaning through astounding sets and dynamic cinematography as a camera gets at eye level through what feels like a non-stop race in tight, miserable quarters. Starting with a command to get from one side to the other as quickly as possible, the camera rolls forward with hardly a stop, pushing action forward clearly but without a break in a phenomenal example of why the root word “move” create the term “movie.” 1917 runs in the long war-related tradition of a Greek athlete at Marathon or the tension created for Australians at Gallipoli. With instructions to deliver a vital message to avert further battlefield debacles, two soldiers in the movie 1917 rush forward, carrying written orders from their commander. But forget any well-groomed trail or convenient running garb; they deal with the worst of man and nature, with no assurance of success even if they get their message to its destination. Little-known actors George MacKay and Dean Charles Chapman display the youth and energy required in their lead roles; the more familiar faces of Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Richard Madden from Game of Thrones step in for remarkably brief moments, signaling that everyone wants to work with a director as good as Sam Mendes. Rightfully so; in exploring a couple of days in the year 1917, Mendes creates one of the best films released in 2019.