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Monday, July 6, 2020

“1917” – A Masterpiece

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Ben Nietzel
Ben Nietzel
Ben Nietzel works as the principal of Saints Mary and Mathias Catholic School. He also enjoys coaching Muskie football and reviewing movies.

Directed by Sam Mendes, “1917” tells the harrowing tale of two young British soldiers tasked with crossing through enemy lines on a mission to deliver a message while the lives of 1600 men hang in the balance.

Pro – Art

Upon exiting the theater, one of the movie-goers near me exclaimed, “man, that was art.” He could not be more right. “1917” is an unbelievable piece of art, not in some highbrow, academic way that is meant to make “Joe Public” feel like an outsider, but rather “1917” is movie making elevated to its highest form. It is gorgeously shot and beautiful despite being set in a landscape littered with mud, barbed wire, and the bodies of young, dead men. Mendes films the entire movie as one running shot, which is stunning and unbelievable even as it’s unfolding before the audience. There is so much detail in each shot and living history on display, it’s almost a shame that the camera continues to move. Move it must though, and as it does, it just provides more and more to marvel at.

Pro – Tension

“1917” is incredibly tense. It is true “edge-of-the-seat” filmmaking. The single shot looms large as the audience is never in possession of any more information than the protagonists. World War I was a conflict imbued with partial information and the unknown. Death might lurk anywhere and everywhere, or not. “1917” nails this feeling. It does not rely on cheap tricks or excessive gore—instead, it uses perspective and solid filmmaking to provide as close of an approximation of the horror and terror of that conflict as anyone in this time will experience. The lack of information and perspective, and the sense of fear and adventure that it fosters, is disorienting to an audience grounded in the information overload of our modern times.

Pro – Goldilocks’ Porridge

Ultimately, “1917” is just a great movie. It’s a wonderfully crafted story of heroism, duty, pain, loss, and the small moments that make us human. Dean-Charles Chapman and especially George MacKay are phenomenal as two young Lance Corporals tasked with a vital but near suicidal mission. The acting is on point by everyone involved.

The story doesn’t sugarcoat the horrors and realities of war, nor do things just work out because they are the right thing to do. On the other hand, it does speak to the warmth and goodness of humanity even in the bleakest of conditions. The story expects the audience to figure some things out yet provides enough context to do so without lazy exposition. The death and destruction of The Great War are clear as our heroes make their way toward completing their mission, but this is not a gore fest. It’s a refreshing and measured amount of filmmaking that actually lends the film gravitas and a sense of respect for its subject matter.


“1917” is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. The story, acting, and cinematography are all amazing. It’s clearly a labor of love for the cast and crew. Anyone can enjoy this film, but anyone with any love of history will be doubly pleased. It would be difficult to overstate how phenomenal this movie is. I highly recommend you make a big push down to the Fridley Palms Theatre and check it out on the big screen.

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