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1917

1917

1917 is a quality movie that led me to some dark thoughts. If the story doesn’t trigger lasting thoughts for you about men and war, then fine, just enjoy this good movie. The quality came from director Sam Mendes and the two fine actors who carry the film.

Blake (Dean Charles Chapman) is chosen to deliver a crucial message to the war front. Schofield (George MacKay) joins Blake and the entire movie unfolds as they carry the message that will, if they are successful, stop the Allies from attacking the Germans who are secretly hidden as they wait for the arrival of their enemy. 1600 men will live or die depending on their success or failure.

We follow the messengers through trenches that are littered with dead bodies, dead horses, blood-soaked dirt, and body parts. Their hideous walk is what we watch while fear grows in us that these two might not reach their goal. After an hour of watching them run, crawl, and climb in fear, a wave of anger spread through me and I ask your tolerance while I switch to talking about that.

Anger surged because the movie triggered the truth. As the two men lead us through a mass of recently destroyed bodies and equipment, the whole of it sinks into us. Here we are in yet another war like all the others that unfold when men reach an impasse. Pride kicks into leaders. War comes. We listen here to men talking and barking short orders about how to handle the German lines in the fewest of words: “Just kill them all.” When nations can’t agree, men kill.

1917 is more than a movie. It is a sharp slap at us in a time when many countries now possess the weaponry to destroy whole countries. Still, we respond to deadlock with physical force.

When the problem that confronts male leaders appears to be deadly, they usually issue the orders to respond with bombs. Physical action is the only weapon left to leaders even when it kills thousands of young soldiers. Given a suicidal order by his commanding officer, a young man replies, “Thank you, sir. Goodbye Sir.”

Think of it: our massacre of the Indians, World War I, the Korean War, Iraq. What positives were gained by those wars? With the historical perspective now available, the world is now blaming the administration in office at the time. In every one of those wars, young men who survived were affected for the rest of their lives and many never lived to go home.

During the two hours of watching destroyed towns, vehicles, and dead bodies covered in blood, we wonder how even the young survivors can re-enter their pre-war lives of families and friends who were untouched by what they experienced. Why do we allow single officers defending their superiority to make decisions that kill thousands? There might be another way. Should women make war decisions? Why not try that?

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : 1917
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 1:59
Rating : R
Date : January 26, 2020

This review was posted on January 26, 2020, in Drama, War.

The Aftermath

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The AftermathThe bones of The Aftermath are solid. The setting – Hamburg in ashes after World War II – is haunting. The interpretation by the cast is first rate. Why then does the film become a little ordinary during its last third?

The story opens with Rachel (Keira Knightly) riding in silence on a train to Hamburg to reunite with her husband, Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke). Director James Kent does a fine job of showing us the ruins of that city that followed the surgical strike by the British that killed thousands at war’s end. The city was reduced to ashes. Rachel and Lewis, the British couple, have been assigned to occupy a country mansion now lived in by German architect Stefan (Alexander Skarsgard). With a kind gesture, Lewis invites Stefan to stay on.

The wartime death of the son of Rachel and Lewis is the unexplained cloud that hangs over the couple. While their chemistry has the understandable feel of relief at war’s end, it is laced with restraint that is rooted in the circumstances around the loss of their young son.

The movie unfolds in the hands of the three fine actors who give us the story with their silences far more than with their words. When Colonel Lewis leaves for six days of an occupation crisis, Rachel and Stefan inevitably overcome their British/German resentment and become lovers. Director James Kent has designed a love scene bathed in a fluid mix of light and color as we wonder what will happen when the Colonel comes home to this love affair.

It is then that Director Kent begins to fall into the more conventional ups and downs of lovers/wives/husbands. You will spot the ordinary stuff. Even then though, we are still interested in this quiet film because neither the acting nor the dialogue ever becomes excessive. It’s just the script.

How can anyone resist the long opening train ride while we try to figure out who Rachel is and why she’s there? Equally affecting is the sight of conqueror and enemy, again in silence, learning to live in the same house.

For its first two thirds, the movie conveys the deep feelings of these quiet, damaged people in a way that draws us deeply into the ruins of war. The scars are delivered through silence. Is it worth going? For me, yes. Though ordinary slip ups do undercut the strength at times, actors conveying emotions with expressions rather than words is affecting. Silence is their language in a terrible historical time.

Keira Knightly does all that with few words and big effect. In the same understated but dramatic tone, both Alexander Skarsgard and Jason Clarke deliver strength and kindness with few words. The chemistry among the three is sophisticated. When the director turns to the ordinary in the last third, let’s look at it as excusable error in a story compelling for the silences laced with emotion delivered by three good actors.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : The Aftermath
Word Count : 497
Running Time: 1:49
Rating : R
Date : April 7, 2019