Nominated for 10 Oscars and tied with two other films, only Joker having more (11), this is truly a must-watch film. It involves viewers on a visceral level. You will feel about as close as you can to what it might have been like inside those WWI trenches.
Just how realistic are the trenches?
“Most people understand that World War I is about trench warfare, but they don’t know that there was more than one trench,” says Cart. “There was the front-line trench, where front-line troops would attack from or defend from; then behind that, kind of a holding line where they brought supplies up, troops waiting to go to to the front-line trench.” The “bathroom” was in the latrine trench.The True History Behind the Movie ‘1917’ | Time
Am still reeling from the cinematic beauty of this film.
Beyond this point we’re in severe SPOILER territory, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, just bookmark and come back.
… you have been warned SPOILERS ahead …
Not Enough Characterization … or is there?
In most circumstances I would criticize a film that seems to have so little characterization (see my Underwater⭐️ review), but I think we get it here through the imagination of the viewer and how certain scenes are displayed. This is a film that relies on showing vs. telling. Something that is often forgotten in films. We don’t need a bunch of characters telling us through exposition, when characterization can be shown through action.
For example, one of the character encounters a woman with a baby. He immediately shows his generosity by trying to give up most of his food, despite the fact his very survival is in doubt. In several scenes we see blood-stained photographs as a motivation for soldiering on. There is also the revealing scene with the brother at the ending.
A War Film without much … War?
This is a big part of what I enjoyed about this film compared to many others. There weren’t a bunch of bloody war scenes. Instead, it’s like we’re wondering through a “hot” battlefield, one where a new battle could break out any second. It’s like passing through a cemetery after the bodies had just been buried or, rather, some have not been buried yet.
Reviews by Others
Below I’ve collected dozens of pull quotes and links to other movie reviewers. I’ve been reading a ton of reviews for this film, most of which are extremely positive, but some are neutral and a few dislike it from the 1,100+ movie blogs that I’m currently following.
As you’ll see shortly when reading the quotes, many are mentioning the technical aspects of 1917, some mention how it is important to see it on the big screen and other observations that are interesting. One of my favorite things to do with films I strongly like or dislike is to read what other moviegoers think. I don’t do this to validate or invalidate my opinion (after all, my opinion is solely mine), but to reflect and, in some cases, learn some aspects of films that I might have missed or need to watch out for in the future.
Now, let’s see what others have to say.
- Anthony Baker / The Recovering Legalist: “…what made the movie so good was not the acting, the action, the realistic combat scenes, or the plot; it was all of that mixed together with the most brilliant cinematography I’ve ever seen.”
- Bouquets & Brickbats: “For all the razzmatazz of its structure, it’s inevitably story that comes first and this delivers at every level, resulting in the first truly unmissable film of 2020.”
- Cindy Bruchman: “Sam Mendes made a film that will be hard to improve upon for a long time. It’s a game-changer”
- Cookie on Screen: “Though it doesn’t offer anything new in story, it is masters emotion in its long-take set-up and reminds you of the true horrors of war”
- Darren Lucas / Movie Reviews 101: “This is one of the best war films you will ever see, it is shot like one take, which makes us follow their journey, adding the tension to every single moment of the film.“
- David White / theencouragingword: “Yesterday, on the fiftieth anniversary of my first day of an “in country” combat-zone tour of the Republic of South Vietnam, then a barely nineteen year old, I saw Sam Mendes’s remarkable new film “1917.””
- DC Bolling (Grade: A-): “…is needed proof why more war movies should be intense and immersive. How Mendes crafted this race against time story about saving humanity is astounding. Sure, it kind of dragged a tiny bit from my perspective, but it doesn’t take away from how heart-pounding this came to be.”
- Debra Manskey: “It is spectacular and bold in so many ways but there is an immediacy about this kind of film making that tempers the spectacle. That is, we discover scenes and information at the same time the protagonists do – and we see the horrors they experience as well. And here, the horrors aren’t sugar coated or played down”
- DougInNC: “It hardly seems possible to film action scenes in the hopeless trenches of WWI, but that is accomplished well here.”
- Eddie / Jordan & Eddie The Movie Guys: “…a mind-blowingly good cinematic creation that will be a deserving Oscar king should the cards fall that way on Hollywood’s night of nights.”
- Eternality Tan (Grade: B-): “For better or worse, Mendes and Deakins tried their best to find the essence of cinema in cinematography. The result is either spectacular for some audiences, or underwhelming for others.”
- Fast Film Reviews / Mark Hobin: “It’s horrific and beautiful, mesmerizing and immediate. If cinema is an emotional experience — a portal that transports us to another time and place — then 1917 inspired the most visceral reaction of any picture I saw in 2019.”
- Film Geeky (10/10): “A number of war films have tried to address the ‘scale’ of the battles using more and more men and CGI to build the sense of just how big war is. This film achieves this sense but in a different way as it takes just two men and weaves them through the battlefield with a huge mission.”
- Jason Bleau / Cinematic Spotlight (5/5): “…is not just a movie, it’s a cinematic painting meticulously crafted and inspired. This is the true best film of 2019 and undoubtedly destined to be one of the greatest movies of 2020.”
- Keith & The Movies (4.5/5): “Sam Mendes takes his audience on a perilous journey driven by a simple but tightly-wound story soaked in an unending tension. It’s a harrowing tale of heroism, friendship, and sacrifice.”
- Kendall Lacey’s Webworld: “Get those shiny golden guys ready for the camera team and the sound department – 1917 also happens to be the best war film since Jarhead, so I’m fine with any award wins.”
- Ken Murray / The Nerd Templar: “I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s an intense watch with a great atmosphere thanks to Mendes and Deakins. It also has a great score that adds to the intensity. Various British actors pop up throughout the roller coaster ride and it’s something I can see myself watching multiple times like Dunkirk.”
- Kirkham A Movie A Day: “…my mouth is agape at the technical excellence of the film and the emotional experience that I was put into by the choices of the director. That’s why I think it is deserving of the label I gave it at the start of this review. Best of 2019.”
- Luke Atkins (8.5/10): “What are the limits of human perseverance? And pain? How did mankind reach a point wherein world war became a solution? What was it like? Well, 1917 gives you a pretty great taste.”
- markgorman / gibberish: “Truly a seminal cinema experience. This will only be half the movie on your TV set so get up and get down to your local big screen, before it’s too late”
- Matt Bullions: “…one of the finest films of the year. It’s a stunning technical achievement and haunting emotional journey that is thrillingly intense from beginning to end.”
- Mirza Baig (4.5/5): “Throughout this film’s two hour running time I felt as if I was on this mission with these two soldiers and absolutely nothing took me out of it until the very end credits.”
- Movie Man Jackson / MMJ (Grade: B+): “Regardless of how you want your war films to be narrative-wise, there’s no denying that the craftsmanship of Mendes’ latest is probably the best 2019 has to offer, if not the decade.”
- No More Workhorse: “This film has a real chance of winning the Oscar for Best Film. It is doing something quite original and it achieves its goal with some style.”
- notlefthandedfilmguy: “Take away the technical aspect of the movie and it isn’t as good as Journey’s End, Saving Private Ryan or Dunkirk (a film with its own gimmick) but factor this in, which you have to, and 1917 is a superb, gripping, heart rending, exhilarating and truly marvellous piece of work.”
- R / Cinema Notes (Grade: A): “…presents a soldier’s journey from point A to point B, and how he’ll have to do it all over again the next day, and the next day. It elucidates the futility of combat, and shines a light on what a sorry species we are.”
- Reely Bernie (5/5): “…stands out as a masterpiece of the ages for the ages. I haven’t been so moved by a film in a long time. I haven’t been so moved on a technical level, emotional level, cinematically, or even musically.”
- Richard Southworth (5/5): “There really is nothing to fault about 1917. The style, the atmosphere, the tension, the acting, the music and the cinematography are all top-notch – this is a must-see.”
- RockAtTheMovies (8.5/10): “Technically the film is a brilliant achievement. It also composes of an excellent score, one that complements each changing scene in the film. So much went into how the film looks and I love that critics have been appreciating it”
- ruth / FlixChatter (5/5): “This is a deeply memorable film that will be remembered as one of the best World War I movies of all time, and it ranks as perhaps one of the best war movies ever made.”
- Sarah / LittleMovieReviews (Grade: A+): “I am at a loss for words as I try to eloquently put my love for this movie into a cohesive thought. Truth be told, you don’t watch 1917, you experience it.”
- Sarah Taviani (5/5): “The cinematography and direction is incredible, but it could not truly succeed without the emotional tether of a story behind it. I’m happy to say that I was 100% invested”
- Screen Zealots / Louisa (3.5/5): “The intimate style of camerawork makes you feel as if you are right there in the trenches, on the battlefield, with these two young men. Since the film is made to feel like it was shot in real time, it becomes a psychological wartime thriller as time begins to run out.”
- Shaun Wren / The Bear Cave (5/5): “Everything delivers from the heartfelt performances from both Chapman and especially MacKay, the direction of Mendes, Roger Deakins’ cinematography and finally, Thomas Newman’s score adds another level.”
- Society Reviews (5/5): “…a gripping must-see film to restore hope in cinema for a broken industry.”
- tensecondsfromnow / The Film Authority (4/5): “Whatever it’s flaws, and the roll-call of big-name British actors works against the realism of the film rather than for it, 1917 does emerge as a great war movie on the scale of All Quiet on the Western Front or The Longest Day”
- Wannabe Movie Critic: “How Mendes and Deakins managed to pull this off, I will never know. It makes you believe in cinema again, that truly great pieces of art can be made still. It’s just something you need to go experience because there’s a lot to say, but I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the jaw-dropping moments.”
- We Bought A Blog: “1917 earns its place in the pantheon of great war films. Beyond the spectacle, the film creates beloved characters you’ll follow into the face of death. We see a future star begin his career, and a legend creates his masterwork.”
- tldrmoviereviews (4.5/5): “If a film can ever elicit an emotional reaction from me then it has done its job. Here, not only do they do that, the film does it in spades. Every part of the film draws you in and you can’t help but be effected by it. This is one film that you do want to see on the big screen.”
Not Recommended (or undefined)
- Giadreams / The Movie My Life: “In terms of what I wish were different about 1917, I’d say a bit more of an even pace and perhaps a slightly differently edited story because there were moments where I felt as though my surrender to the story teller was interrupted with small moments of recognition that my expectations of how seamlessly everything would flow were not fully met.”
- greatmartin: “…is interesting for the way it appears to have been filmed but there have been much better war movies in the past and certainly better movies in 2019.”
- Humanizing the Vacuum: “Thanks to Mendes’ approach, critics will praise 1917 for its realism. This is a mistake. Presenting gore and moments of sentimentality in the same shot is Mendes’ hallmark”
- I Draw On My Wall: “Sure, the world of this movie was incredibly dangerous, and the whole idea is that you feel the danger around every corner (which I did), but because of the pacing and the commitment to the rhythms of a big budget action movie, these moments all felt a little off.”
- jmunney’s blog: “The power of this story is in the dramatic irony of fate’s fickleness, and we get only a small portion of that by sticking on one path. Ultimately then, 1917 is a long fancy showcase to show off some filmmaking skillz instead of a fully realized narrative vision.”
- Louis Proyect: “Typically, the hero of a video game—often a soldier like in Mendes’s film—has to pass through increasing difficult stages in order for victory to be declared. In a video game, this involves fire-breathing dragons. In “1917,” it involved dastardly Huns. She got bored with these games after a month, just like I got bored with “1917” after 15 minutes.”
- Nick Kush / Moviebabble: “…it occurred to me that 1917 is a rather hollow experience. A movie that wants to appear immersive without the attention to detail to actually deliver on such claims. The entire movie is using shorthand, hoping that slick direction and editing will leave most viewers oblivious to its logical inconsistencies and emotional vacancies.”
- RogerInOrlando (1/4): “The script is mostly recycled war movie cliches, with the props — guns, explosions, etc. — occasionally giving away the paltry budget. The picture may pursue an interesting angle, but the writing, performances and unconvincing combat (high school drama “stage punches” are thrown), makeup make it impossible for characters to engage us in their story.”
- The Radcliff Reviews (6/10): “For a film with such a personal background to it, you’d think it’d be a bit more personal. Instead, it’s as eye-popping but devoid of life as No Man’s Land.”
Did I miss your review? Use the comments to tell me about your movie-related/review blog and I’ll follow. I like following movie-related blogs and pull quote from my reading list as well as other new blogs shared, liked and discovered.