Review: “1917” (2019)

The girls and I risked a late weeknight to see “1917” on its wide release opening night. The film made many “Top 10” lists for 2019, but most people weren’t able to see it until 2020. Starring relative unknowns ( George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman) with only a handful of side roles for established stars (Andrew ScottRichard Madden, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch ), we were eager to see what all the fuss was about.

Wasn’t this just another war movie?

It turned out to be a singular cinematic experience that was so intense, so visceral, so relentless, I was wrung out and speechless when the credits rolled. And while that sounds like something potentially bad, it was also beautiful, so beautiful. Walking out, both Jen and I said at nearly the same time, “If Roger Deacons (the cinematographer) doesn’t get another Oscar for this, there’s something truly wrong with this world.”

I love reading up on movies before I see them, and I’m not spoiler averse. Yet there are some fundamental things about this movie, from its core technical conceit to how it’s merely being described in reviews, that I almost wish I didn’t know going in. Even knowing who has cameos leaves part of your brain wondering when they’re going to turn up (there was a lot of elbowing between my wife and daughter). All of which is my way of saying, maybe avoid trailers and reviews (even this one!) before going in. The trailers give away snippets of some of the most incredible moments.

Yet even with a brain full of behind-the-scenes trivia, “1917” still blew me away.

I’ve never been fully bowled over by a war movie. Not my thing? Wrong generation? “Dunkirk” probably came the closest to achieving what “1917” did, and many fantastic war films were clearly going for the ground-level intensity “1917” embodies (how many people still specifically talk about “the first ten minutes of Saving Private Ryan”). But I think “1917” is in a class by itself.

It truly does things I’ve never seen on screen before, and gave me an experience that both rattled and inspired me to my core. It’s definitely a “I wish I could make movies” movie.

We saw it in a broom closet of a theater in Mililani, and it was still incredible. If you can see it in IMAX with Dolby UltraSuperMax 3000, I would strongly recommend it.

But however you can see it, see it.

“1917” (2019) is directed by Sam Mendez. Official website is 1917.movie. Check out the Wikipedia page, IMDB page, and Rotten Tomatoes page. This review was originally published on Facebook.

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