Movies

Movie review: ‘1917’

Remarkable film puts the viewer right in the middle of war’s violence and terror

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 1/11/20

War itself has always been brutal, but the Industrial Revolution helped create a horrifying meat grinder during this "war to end all wars." The machines created to destroy human bodies during the first World War (1914-1918) were made even more effective because medics had no way to cope with the volume much less the severity of destruction. But, still, men, and boys, marched off to fight, starched with visions of glory.

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Movies

Movie review: ‘1917’

Remarkable film puts the viewer right in the middle of war’s violence and terror

Posted

War itself has always been brutal, but the Industrial Revolution helped create a horrifying meat grinder during this "war to end all wars." The machines created to destroy human bodies during the first World War (1914-1918) were made even more effective because medics had no way to cope with the volume much less the severity of destruction. But, still, men, and boys, marched off to fight, starched with visions of glory.

All of that wilted in the face of blood, guts, terror and shocking violence.

Sam Mendes' new film, which just took top honors at the Golden Globes, brings that horror to the forefront with an experience that puts the grim reality of war up close and personal.

The film is called "1917" and it is remarkable for other reasons as well.

For one, it very simply follows the journey of two young British soldiers — Lance Corporals Blake and Schofield (Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay, respectively) who are given the near-impossible mission to take a vital message to the front lines across a no-man’s-land battlefield. But, how director of photography Roger Deakens accomplishes this is nothing short of miraculous.

His camera follows these men across muddy fields of shattered debris, mangled bodies and death-dealing traps inside underground tunnels in what appears to be one long seamless take.

It is a little unnerving at first because we're so used to the visual break that a cut or change in camera angle gives the viewer. This has become part of common visual storytelling that provides a variety of differing perspectives within the context of a particular scene. It's also a way for the director and cinematographer to emphasize visual elements in that scene or to capture nuances of an actor's expression. But, here, the experience unfolds in real time through a camera’s Stanley Kubrick-like one point perspective.

We watch, for example, the two soldiers move stealthily through the ruined landscape, into huge bomb craters filled with water and human remains, up a muddy embankment, through a barbed wire fence, and all without the annoying convention of shaky-cam to force a sense of immediacy. Deakens accomplished much of this by painstakingly designing the sets, lighting and movements, and then went through extensive rehearsals with the actors and crew before the final production commenced.

I say all this out of enormous respect for the technical prowess and not to take anything away from what it’s like to watch this film. In fact, when watching the movie, this wizardry is easily forgotten as we watch and hope these guys will accomplish their mission without getting hurt or killed. But, Mendes, who wrote the screenplay based on the memoir of an older relative, unfolds the story with a grave suspense.

We don’t know this story. We don’t know these guys. All we know is they are young and are given orders to do something very difficult in order to save thousands of their comrades from what may be certain slaughter. It’s a story of courage about two young men who have something to fight for.

This film co-stars Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Mays and Claire Duburcq.

Tempo grade: A+

“1917” is rated: R for violence, some disturbing images, and language.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

Also showing in Taos

Dark Waters

MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual material.

Taos Community Auditorium

This hard-hitting political thriller from director Todd Haynes tells the shocking and heroic story of an attorney named Rob Bilott (Mark Ruffalo) who risks his career and family to uncover a dark secret hidden by one of the world’s largest corporations and to bring justice to a community dangerously exposed for decades to deadly chemicals.

Corporate environmental defense attorney Bilott has just made partner at his prestigious Cincinnati law firm in large part due to his work defending Big Chem companies. He finds himself conflicted after he’s contacted by two West Virginia farmers who believe that the local DuPont plant is dumping toxic waste in the area landfill that is destroying their fields and killing their cattle.

Hoping to learn the truth about just what is happening, Bilott, with help from his supervising partner in the firm, Tom Terp (Tim Robbins), files a complaint that marks the beginning of an epic 15-year fight—one that will not only test his relationship with his wife, Sarah (Anne Hathaway) but also his reputation, his health and his livelihood.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 12), 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Jan. 13-15), also at 2 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 1) and at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday (Jan. 2-3) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

Like a Boss

MPAA Rating: R for language, crude sexual material, and drug use.

Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres

Best friends Mia and Mel (Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne) run their own cosmetics company, a business they built from the ground up. But they're also in over their heads financially, and the prospect of a buyout offer from an industry titan proves too tempting to pass up. The beauty business is now about to get ugly as the proposal puts Mia and Mel's lifelong friendship to the ultimate test.

Comedy by Miguel Arteta co-stars Salma Hayek, Jennifer Coolidge, Billy Porter and Ari Graynor.

It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.

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