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.

Oscars 2019

Oscars 2019

This was a year of creeping apprehension for movie lovers. Theaters were often lucky to have ten people in the audience. Theaters are closing while Netflix releases new movies to people watching in their living rooms. The feel of change is overwhelming. Let’s look with final pleasure at three Oscar nominees from this year when the movie culture began to plunge into change.

Marriage Story opens beautifully as a husband and wife describe each other on the path of their marriage from day one to now. As each finishes his/her personal tale, we have become captives in the problems they are trying so hard to solve without anger.
The story unfolds with fine acting by the whole cast. Scarlett Johansson and Azhy Robertson as mother and son are quietly and consistently good which allows us to become thoroughly drawn to Adam Driver’s gradual collapse in a riveting performance. This is a superb story not of a marital war but of two people working together toward a resolution.

Ford v Ferrari. How can anyone be held in suspense while watching a deafening soundtrack for two and a half hours? Matt Damon’s Ford designer leads a cast that takes a theater bursting with roaring sound into a deep well of caring for all the characters. This film is a magical creation of racing as an assortment of men, car parts, money, driving genius, and obsession. It is delivered with such skill that we non-racers finally understand what it is like to move through space and time at 7000 RPM. That happens because there is not one mediocre acting performance in the whole story.

Little Women, don’t skip this one just because you think it’s from long ago. Greta Gerwig (best director) has brought this story into the present in an astonishing way. With superb casting and some clever script changing, she has made this classic as relevant now as it was in 1868. Saoirse Ronan is my pick for this year’s acting Oscar. A cast without any weakness enriches the original. Louisa May Alcott’s book became universal 150 years ago and Greta Gerwig’s film is becoming just that right now. This movie has that rare magic of pulling us so deeply into the film that we feel we’re up there on the screen in the story. We may all wonder how Alcott herself created a family that citizens of so many generations have come to love.

As different as each is from the others, all three of these films build characters who hold us. What’s more fun than a final result that gets everything right? Each of these movies gets a plus for acting, directing, photography, and emotional suspense. As always, I loved the fun of being part of a movie loving audience held in quality suspense in a dark theater. Am I alone in not wanting to see movies in my living room? At least see these Oscar nominees while you can.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Oscars 2019
Word Count : 495
Date : January 19, 2020