The newest WWI movie to come out, a movie that appears to have been taken in one long take, what is so impressive about it and why is it nominated to so many Academy Awards? Let me explain.
As you might know WWI was the notorious great war of the beginning of the 20th century, it started in 1914 and ended in 1918. This movie, as the name of it intends to explain, is based during the dawn of the war, in 1917. Probably the most difficult time, for at that moment everything was uncertain, from who was actually winning to who was going to last longer. Many strategical tactics were used and experimental weapons. Another important detail to know about the war were the trenches, where many of the wars were fought and were most of the movies base their story from. With this in mind, my expectations were not really high when I first watched the trailer. Patriotism, and all that, It’s not my thing. But then I heard that it was filmed as if it would be one long shot (If you know me you know my opinion on Birdman and how much I loved the way it was filmed). So, my hype for the movie began to grow. Later I heard from a good friend of mine that it does deserve the best picture award, this made me wonder, okay, I guess I have to give it a try.
With this in mind, let me say that the movie was way better than what I expected it to be. It has non stop action and drama and thrill. From the beginning we get the plot for the whole movie and trust me, it is a very simple plot. Two soldiers that have to go to another trench to warn their generals that they are about to walk into a trap and that way they might spare 1,600 soldiers of dying in the battlefront. And that’s it. The events that happen while on the mission are what make the movie memorable. First off, they have limited time to take the message to the other trench, second off, if they don’t deliver it many people will die, including Blake’s older brother (Blake being our main character in the movie). This whole thing just gives a very tense feeling to the movie, desperate in many ways.
I want to give a shoutout to the director, my respects to Sam Mendes. He managed to tell a very complicated story with a very complicated method, the “One shot” sequence. It is not technically shot in one take, but it seems like it anyway. If you are careful you might notice every cut they make, every time the camera goes behind a tree, or behind a rock, outside of a building. In fewer words, every time you don’t see any actors in the screen for one second, that’s where the cuts happen. This is very complicated, because it means that you have to remember long sequences with no mistakes. It also means that there are many cases where the actors are improvising and doing their own thing. This gives the whole movie a more “organic” feeling to it, I personally really like it.
The actors also did a great job, it’s not easy to remain in character for long time periods, and when something happens a little different from what was expected they have to be careful not to stop acting. The dialogues were so organic that I just want to applaud to whoever wrote them, it is difficult to write something that does seem like a normal conversation. Dean Chapman really made you feel like he was this cool kid who always has something funny to say. I loved all the cameos that we got, from Cumberbatch to Firth, they were highly appreciated.
But now let’s talk about some of the most incredible moments. Obviously if you want the movie to be unexpected, don’t continue reading.
The first moment when they leave the trench and enter the no man’s land (the spot between two armies’ trenches) is probably the tensest, I mean, the movie just started and of course they will make it, but still, it was tense. But just when you think that the danger is over, they enter the German bunker, and for a moment you just forget about the danger they just went through. This makes everything way more claustrophobic, even difficult to watch. My respect for the director, for this scene is the second-best executed scene in the whole movie. Let’s focus on the transitions for a second. I didn’t mention this before but, the beginning of the movie is filmed in a great green valley, with some trees and flowers blooming around, the no man’s land area is dark and gross and dirty, you can feel the danger in the diseases just by looking at the puddles with decomposing soldiers and horses. After they leave the bunker area everything goes back to green, but after seeing the destruction of no man’s land, it doesn’t feel as beautiful anymore, it has a sad look to it. I just thought those transitions were very clever and well executed.
Now, to our main spoiler. Blake’s death. I don’t know about you but, since the beginning I was fooled into thinking that Blake was the main character and that Schofield was just there to be the one who would die and become a strong reason for Blake to try to complete the mission even harder. But like I said, I was fooled to think this. Even when all the foreshadowing pointed at Schofield dying it didn’t happen. I am grateful that I had no idea that this was going to happen. This scene was beautiful as to how well made it was, we see Blake being stabbed and falling, next we see Schofield shooting the German pilot, and Schofield running towards Blake, all within 10 seconds, very fast. Now, if you focus on Blake, he is obviously looking at his wound, Schofield puts a bandage on it to stop the bleeding but is way to agitated to stop and think about how serious the situation is, you can see by his expression that his head is running at miles per hour, going through what their best chances are, but he acts faster than what he is thinking, which makes him decide to try to pick up Blake. By the time he tries to help him get up you see Blake getting pale. All of this within seemingly “one shot”. The most powerful moment is when you notice that Schofield just noticed what he has done, and realizes that he couldn’t have done anything else. Blake starts losing sense due to blood lose and slowly starts to get paler and paler until he dies in his arms. All within 3-5 intense minutes. Death is fast, it doesn’t wait for the perfect time, it just happens.
Let’s move forward towards the middle end. When Schofield finds the French girl hiding in a building. This scene made me feel so, moved, and I’m not easily moved in movies. I think it’s because of how much they are both trying to understand each other, it just made me realize how very little we try to help people who don’t understand our language, we settle by saying, “sorry I can’t understand”. We don’t care until we need to care. They both needed each other at the moment and they were willing to try to do anything they could in order to communicate.
Going further to the end, I want to let you know what my favorite scene was, and this is the one where Schofield finds the place in the forest and is tired and devastated and exhausted. There’s a man who is singing, and everyone is listening to him with so much melancholy in their eyes. The sadness that a little of happiness gives them makes you as the spectator feel for them, feel their heavy hearts. It was heartwarming, but also cold as ice, to watch them get up as Schofield remains seated almost passing out. I loved the intensity of this scene.
But we’re not over yet. There’s one more scene I want to talk about and it’s the scene where Schofield meats Blake’s brother, the look on him when he says, “you might know my brother” but almost instantly realizing what has happened. The conversation they have with no words and how Blake’s brother remains strong and firm, with no time to cry, with his hand stretched out with his brother’s dog tags. The devastation is shown in his face. War has just done its job on another family, of death and destruction.
This is a beautiful movie from any perspective. I loved the direction that it has, the increasing intensity, the plot twists you get and the feeling of “everything is lost”. I do consider it to have a good shot on winning some awards for the coming Academy Awards.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this review. Tell me what you think about this movie? What was your reaction? Keep in mind that this was my opinion, so feel free to let me know what your opinion is.
What should I review next? Tell me in the comment section below.