Remember that "steers and queers" line from Full Metal Jacket and An Officer and a Gentleman? Well, only two types of movies come out in January: Oscar bait and shit you'll hate. The latter is usually some of the stankiest, nastiest shit you'll ever see. Think a mid-August heat wave dumpster full of food poisoning puke and diapers from babies who've only been fed spoiled milk and gorgonzola.
Thankfully, the latest effort from the director of American Beauty, Sam "Clam's Disco" Mendes, is all Oscar bait. There's nary a whiff of ass gas to be found anywhere near 1917.
Mendes, with the help of cinematographer Roger Deakins, the man behind the look of at least one of your favorite flicks (seriously, this guy's cinematographied everything from Sid and Nancy and The Big Lebowski to the recent Blade Runner sequel), made 1917 look like it was filmed as one, single, very long, tracking shot, and he won't shut the fuck up about it.
Does the "one shot" approach raise the stakes by pulling the audience into the action? Sure. Does it give the movie a real-time feeling that keeps the ticking clock ticking louder with every passing second? It does. Was 1917 really filmed in one shot? No fucking way. It was pieced together from at least a dozen shots, none of which was more than nine or so minutes long.
Mendes says he was inspired to make this movie by stories his grandfather used to tell him about his time serving in WWI. Apparently, Mendes' grandpa was so small and quick, like a bunny rabbit of some kind, that he ran messages up and down the front line when the telephones were down. Or, you know, he gave happy ending massages all war long. Maybe Mendes misheard?
Either way, all the sexy stories of Grandpa Express message delivery left such an impression on Mendes that he had to make 1917, a movie about two soldiers (Dean-Charles "DC" Chapman and George "Takei" MacKay) delivering a message. With dialogue like, "Careful, there could be more traps," and, "You'll have to jump the mine shaft," 1917 is easily the best video game movie ever made not based on a video game.
Come for the mud, stay for the blood. And hopelessness. And absurdity of war. And 45-second Bennylicks Allthesnatch cameo.
January 17, 2020