After watching the new film by the British director Sam Mendes, I could actually say that it is really good. For a lover of World War One history, I undoubtedly enjoy any new material that appears or it is made. But this is not a traditional trench narrative of the battle between Germans and Englishmen; this 2019 movie is about one day (April 6, 1917) journey of two messengers in a disputed razed land on the fields and destroyed towns of France.
Those of you who have seen the classics All Quiet in the Western Front (Lewis Milestone 1930, and the 1979 version by Delbert Mann), Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick 1957), and Merry Christmas (Christian Carion 2005) might see how terrible was to fight around trenches. But Mendes is giving us the perspective of his grandfather, a veteran of the WWI who was one of the original messengers of the story.
One of the messengers is an expert on maps with a brother in the uncommunicated side. His companion is an awarded veteran assigned to the mission in order to back up the task. The younger is friendlier, eager to achieve high honors in the war but miss home and friends. The expert is almost tired of the conflict but have some hidden feelings regarding England. Not to talk how the camera follow the messengers constantly, the almost nine hours of mission runs during the duration of the movie. The few breaks were represented by blackouts in the actions.
In this film you can feel the intensity of the conflict not only in the perfect recreation of the battlefield, but also the muddy colors, and the perception of the stinking rotten bodies spread all over the pathway of both messenger´s route. The way through the abandoned underground German lines is amazing, meanwhile the few quite oasis of green found between places gave the viewer a balsam before the ongoing and mortal confrontations.
There are no moments of mercy, everybody is trying to kill everybody, except of course their allies. The most remarkable human scene is of a French woman saving a baby orphan in a wrecked town controlled by the Germans.
After all, the mission has to be fulfilled against all challenges and losses. No awards, no glory, no medals, no water for the thirsty or warm meal for the hunger. Just: poetry in the memory, friendship, a song inside the woods, and the photographs of the beloved ones waiting at home.
I already seen the 2020 awarded movie, however in my perspective 1917 must won the Oscar.
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, "You’ll all be drowned!"
(Edward Lear’s Poem in 1917 film)