- 1917 is a major work from Sam Mendes- a director whose resume now seems even more fully rounded out
- The camerawork by Mendes and Roger Deakins is front and center in the praise (and oddly enough the boldness of their endeavor actually turned some critics off somehow) – this is muscular filmmaking—ambitiously cinematic— but there is plenty of warranted praise deserved for the narrative (some of the quieter moments are the strongest), for the writing, acting, and the visceral effect on the viewer.
- I’m not here to evaluate the evaluators- but much of the criticism may be from the subject matter (it is a classic sort of old-school genre) and the team here behind the making of 1917 is old guard. Mendes has been working inside Hollywood (maybe Wyler is a comparison) for 20 years (American Beauty his debut in 1999) and Deakins and Thomas Newman worked on Shawshank Redemption which is 25-years prior to 1917—and even at the time of its release, Shawshank was viewed as very old school and classical
- The entire film is a simulated oner -one tracking shot- there are a few edits of course—the most noticeable of which is one where George MacKay’s character is knocked out (other edits are hidden) for what seems to be a couple of hours
- The attempt to do it all in one tracking shot- invokes the names of Hitchcock (Rope), Iñárritu (Birdman)—both “hid” their edits as well, Alexander Sokurov (Russian Ark) and Sebastian Schipper (Victoria). I also have to compare it to Gravity (Cuaron), The Revenant (Iñárritu again) with not only the tracking shots but the punishing nature of its protagonist. MacKay’s feat as an actor is maybe a half-step below Keaton in Birdman or DiCaprio in The Revenant as he’s not given quite as many showcase close-ups. Dunkirk (Nolan) is another film to note with the brilliant use of space and time deadlines, and Paths of Glory of course (Kubrick) with the tracking shots in the trenches—masterfully done here. Doing it with one shot absolutely lends to the immersive nature of Mendes’ achievement. It simply isn’t the same experience (on top of the sheer technical/artistic achievement) if it is shot in a traditional approach
- Speaking of immerse experience- the task/goal here in the story/mission is simple like Saving Private Ryan– there are 1600 soldiers (including one of the protagonist’s brother for further motivation) to be saved
- Marvelous choreography of not only the camera but balancing the details of the extra- the scenes of the two leads “going up the down trench” bumping into soldiers. A variation on this would happen in the epic climax with MacKay sprinting along the trench crossing the teams of extras in his path
- It may not be as painterly as Mendes’ Skyfall or The Road to Perdition (there aren’t many films that are as painterly as Perdition) but I’m still blown away by some of the photographic highlights including the shot through the window of Dean-Charles Chapman just before the plane arrives and another with the arches in the rumble at night with the flares overhead.
- Thomas Newman’s score deserves to be praised— it is there to accentuates the film’s climax as MacKay sprints alongside the trenches in one last-stich effort to save these men – a sequence and tracking shot so valiant and affecting I’m getting tremors just thinking about it
- The journey has no less than two devastating scenes with the two Blake brothers— one is when the Dean-Charles Chapman character passes (Mendes has a quietly stunning 360-degree shot around the two characters here as the color leaves Chapman’s face), and the other is when MacKay’s character delivers the news to his brother
- A Must-See/Masterpiece border – leaning masterpiece
I was completely wrong on this one. After seeing it another time I’m fully convinced that it is a MS film and although I’m not ready to put it at number #5 of 2019 I’m sure I’ll add it on the lower side of my top 10.
Also, has your list of the top films of 2019 changed, I mean you saw something new that deserves to be there? Or you have changed the ranking ?
@Cinephile– wow! nice. I’m happy to hear that on 1917.
So I haven’t had a chance to revisit many 2019 films yet since I put out my top 15 in mid-January. I saw Midsommar for a second time about a week after doing my top 15 and it gave me more confidence about having it #1.
I saw Joker again- I think it is superb- but I would flip Almodovar’s Pain and Glory for sure and put it ahead of Joker. I may also drop Uncut Gems a spot or two. It just hasn’t stayed with me the way some of the others have. That’s about it for now… Hoping seeing most of these a second time soon and also hoping to catch up with other 2019 films I have previously missed
I just saw it again today, I don’t know if it’s a masterpiece or not, I may be missing something here.
Are you sure of your rating? Which is what his opinion avoids taking him to the status of a masterpiece.
@Malith- thank you for the help here
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