Welcome back to the Lucky 13 Film Club. It’s my lucky day! Not only is it my birthday, but I also get to talk to you all day long. It’s the perfect present. Let’s talk about the director Sam Mendes. If you have seen 1917, then you know what a visceral, gripping movie it is. For conversation starters, I claim that 1917 is in the top 5 all-time best war films ever made. Better than Saving Private Ryan. Much better than Dunkirk. Even better than Platoon (a personal favorite for decades). What made it so good? The orchestration of the cameras headed by cinematographer Roger Deakins surpasses the norm. I appreciate Sam Mendes for taking risks and making an interesting film to watch. What do the critics say? Do you dislike the illusion of continuity with long shots edited carefully to look like a continuous take? Remember Hitchcock did that trick with Rope (1948) and recently, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman (2014).
Here are a baker’s dozen reasons I loved 1917: 1. Let’s walk beside the soldiers as a ghost and feel what it was like to be in WW1. 2. The subtle, intense performance by George MacKay (Defiance). 3. The cameos of fine actors taking a backseat. 4. Mendes’s beautiful shot compositions. Even in the horror, the burning city, the dogfight, the eerie spotlight shining on the charred silhouette below is beautiful. Notice I keep repeating the word beautiful. It’s not easy making the horrors of war visually stunning. 5. It was based on stories by the grandfather of Sam Mendes. Bravo! 6. It’s historically accurate including the layers of trenches and German bunkers who had much better-living conditions like bunk beds. 7. The ending is perfect. 8. Proof that simple stories are the best. Two friends are tasked with crossing No-Man’s-Land to report to a general to call off an attack in the morning. From point A to point B, can you survive? While other war movies feel like a video game, I didn’t feel that here. 8. There were no schmaltzy, cheesy lines or the usual hero tricks. Actors Dean Charles-Chapman and George Mackay were everyday men who were scared but pushed on. They were completely convincing. 9. CGI was not a distraction but used to sew the film together, to enhance it, but not reign supreme.10. Bravo for only saying two f*cks in the whole movie. War is profane enough. 11. It was a film about the human experience; therefore, multiple generations could experience a war that never should be forgotten. 12. 5,200 feet of trench making. The details, the timing, and 4-months of rehearsals. The cameras move 365 degrees. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is brilliant. 13. Sam Mendes made a film that will be hard to improve upon for a long time. It’s a game-changer.
If you haven’t seen 1917 yet and don’t like spoilers, don’t watch this video. However, if you like what goes on behind the camera, how they filmed 1917, I’ve included how they made the movie. Spoilers ahead.
Okay, obviously I’m enthusiastic about 1917. It’s certainly not the only fine film by Sam Mendes. Let’s discuss your other favorites. Which ones did you like? Why? From the posters below, my favorite is Road to Perdition.