The Oscars are on in about a week, and there are many amazing contenders for Best Picture. One of these films is 1917, a war film directed by Sam Mendes that takes place during World War I and is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and many more. This film is definitely a must-watch and something to look out for during awards night.
This movie is definitely one that plays with your emotions. Right from the start, the movie gives an emotional purpose to the characters, but initially leaves the identity of the main character unclear. It’s hard to tell if you should be empathizing with Lance Corporal Blake, a young soldier tasked with a mission to deliver a message to one of the British troops that they may be walking into a trap, or with Lance Corporal Schofield, a soldier who is simply roped into the mission by Blake. The characters suffer from many hardships from the start, and throughout the story, they have to deal with traps and reason with their own mortality and morality. This adds to the suspense and anticipation as any event could induce further trauma to the characters. There were multiple times while sitting in the theatre that I whispered for Schofield to watch out or get up from almost being killed and felt chills as he went through his mission.
Photo Credit: IMDB
Visually, the movie is very appealing as well. The camerawork appears to be a single-shot, rotating around the characters as if the camera was another observer in the scene. It almost appears to make the characters lose their individuality; the camera is not fixed on one character’s point of view and, therefore, gives the effect that these soldiers could be anyone. They are not special because they are Blake or Schofield, but rather that they are selfless enough to risk their lives for the survival of others, even if, in Schofield’s case, they were initially unwilling to do so.
The set design and soundtrack also add to the intensity. In particular, the scene in which Schofield is running through the French town at night is one of my favorites. As he is running from the German soldiers in darkness, the city is lit up by bombs and fires and gives an eerie disposition. As a viewer, you don’t know when the screen will light up, adding to the fear that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
One of the only things the movie fails on is its use of A-list actors for seemingly small cameos. While I have been a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch for a long time, it was jarring to see him as the leader of the troops for about 5 minutes of the film. Seeing such a recognizable face took away from the cohesion of the film and reminds the viewers that this, in fact, is not reality. It interrupts the world that was built and decreases the emotional value
Photo Credit: IMDB
The ending is also a point of contention. Initially, Schofield is shown as someone distanced from his family and leaves the viewers to speculate about his past. However, the movie ends with a scene of Schofield looking at a few images of his family, even though the movie doesn’t give any indication of his sense of duty towards them. The sudden characterization seems too little and too late and leaves the viewers with more questions than answers.
While this movie is definitely something to look out in the Oscars, there are things that could have been better developed. Where it succeeds in camerawork and set design, it fails by making the characters lose their individuality. Nevertheless, its unique use cinematography and intensity give it great emotional appeal making it an unstoppable contender for Best Picture.
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