It was yet another cold night of battle in a seemingly pointless, yet never-ending clash of more parties than one could count. This battle would be the most important, as this would finally give a hint as to who would finally reign victorious at the end of the fight. Tension thick amongst all who sat in the quiet before the storm. The envelope was opened, and it was revealed. “1917” had won “Best Motion Picture – Drama” at the Golden Globes.
An immense sensation of whiplash was felt by many, as a reaction to the shock of just how… boring this choice was. Among the nominees, there was the epic crime film, “The Irishman,” that felt like the ultimate culmination of Scorsese’s work; “Joker,” a controversial movie that has divided critics and movie-goers alike; “Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach’s most personal film to date (which is truly saying something), housing some of the most powerful performances of the year; and “The Two Popes,” which was… also pretty boring. Needless to say, the seemingly average war story filmed in “one-shot” was unexpected. I kept an open mind when coming into the movie. And, when the movie ended, I was absolutely taken aback by just how… fine it is. It is good, don’t get me wrong, but I was left questioning whether or not it was THAT good.
“1917” follows two soldiers in WWI who must relay a message to call off an attack against the German forces.
The one aspect of this film receiving the most praise is its cinematography by the master of the craft, in all senses of the term, Roger Deakins. The aforementioned illusion of the singular shot holds up really well. This camera and editing effect brings with it a multitude of emotional effects as well. Whether it be sorrow, anxiety, or some sort of mix between the two. As well as the seamless illusion, the film does look breathtaking in some scenes. One scene that comes to mind is when one of the main characters is running through a desolate French city in the early hours of the morning, with the only source of lighting being a burning church nearby. The sequence really blew me away, and managed to stand out from any regular war flick.
However, the cinematography is one of the only things that separate this from any average run-of-the-mill war film. Despite having an Oscar-nominated screenplay, it has basically everything one would expect. Again, none of it is necessarily bad, there are some good moments in the film, but those moments can still be seen from a mile away. The performances are good, yet, nothing unexpected from a regular war movie. The sound editing and mixing are sure to scoop Oscars with more ease than the local ice cream man, but that sort of thing happens all the time with these war films.
A fairly recent movie that I would consider more notable as a subversion to the average war film formula would be Christopher Nolan’s 2017 film, “Dunkirk.” Its use of sound, cinematography, and more importantly, Nolan’s trademark use of a wacky timeline makes it completely unique from any other film in the genre. In “Dunkirk,” there was no real indication as to what was about to happen next. This is where I think “1917” falls short. It was an incredibly well-made movie, but, ultimately, I could already see what was going to happen next.
The film is actually quite strong on its own. The moments that hit really do hit as hard as they can. Fans of the “war movie” genre are certain to enjoy this one. However, in comparison to its fellow Golden Globe nominees, and to an extent, its fellow Oscar nominees, it falls somewhat flat. It doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. It’s not even the first best picture nominee to have the effect of one seemingly long take, with “Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” getting the nomination and subsequent win about five years before. All in all, this is a good movie, but not one that I could see truly deserving the best picture win.