1917

1917 ★★★½

In talk about 1917 cinematography is always mentioned, especially its one-shot-feature look, but I feel that often sidelines other brilliant technical work present here. The movie's real-time continuous take is combination of great work in building this world, making it feel believable and realistic. Set and costume design is a big part of movies success in this regard- sets have a proper look of 3-year trench warfare and the uniforms look true to the period. Careful design of diegetic sound is absolutely amazing, bullets, bombs, planes and even water pull you in additionally in the movies world-maximizing one-take aesthetics. The only problem was occasional usage of movie's score, it was needlessly noisy.

But even I cannot talk about 1917 without mentioning amazing work of cinematographer Roger Deakins. Entire movie is beautiful, full with gorgeous imaginary, especially shots of war in the night. With amazing usage of lightning and contrast, these shots are both beautiful and haunting-amazing combination. If anything from the movie stays with me that are these shots.

However the weaker part is story itself. Premise is simple enough but effective, two men are sent on dangerous mission-to warn another army group to not fall in a enemy trap. One of these man, Blake, has a brother in that group, so he clearly must rush. Other, Schofield, was unlucky enough to come with him. These two men could have had more interesting relationship, but I feel that script lets them down. Characterization isn't present enough and script in general is more focused on the journey that their relationship. There are few decent emotional moments, but they never feel great because of this lack of characterization. Also it doesn't help that acting is mostly only serviceable.

Another issue I have is again related to its one-shot look, I don't think it was correct choice for this story. There are few great moments of suspense with it and whole look is impressive, but story is too unbelievable for it. This continuous take, and long takes in general, are great at putting us, the spectators in the movie, but plot is way too contrived and unrealistic for it too work. It feels like overexaggerated story put in realistic world, it doesn't fully work.

I must say that I'm kinda sad that movie's anti-war sentiment, present in the script, dialogue and occasionally in scenery, also feels pushed aside by the spectacle, both of film-making and war. 1917 never uses anything but Steadicam, even in scenes where different choice might straighten the movie's anti-war themes, like subjective shaky camera during the bombing scenes.

1917 is masterclass in technique, but not fully successful in anything else. But sometimes beauty is enough for me, even if it won't make my shortlist of my favourite war movies.

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