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1917, 2019

I've seen different reactions to this one: some people really moved, others finding that they were kept at a distance.

Corporal Schofield (George MacKay) and Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) are sent to deliver an urgent message to a squadron of soldiers set to walk into a nasty German trap. Navigating enemy territory, the stakes are particularly high as one of the 1600 men headed into the fray is Blake's older brother. The film is composed of long takes as the men make their frantic run for the line.

I'm in the camp that really liked this one. To begin with, on a technical level it is stunning. The long takes, yes, but also the lighting and the camera movement just kept wowing me. I especially loved a sequence in which a nighttime scene is eerily illuminated.

This is a decidedly unromantic look at war, and in particular it really drives home the waste and devastation of such a conflict. Animals are slaughtered in their fields to keep the other side from having a chance to butcher and eat them. Citizens trapped in the crossfire huddle in fear. The soldiers encountered along the way offer a mix of kindness and cynicism.

I thought that the pacing of the film was strong. Action sequences are interspersed with quieter moments (such as when Schofield spends a short time in a cellar with a French woman and the baby she is caring for--a brief moment of tenderness undercut by the relentless urgency of the mission), and when one character notes "Best not to dwell on it", you can feel the main characters' need for momentum. In moments of quiet, a horrible mix of hope and despair begins to descend.

I wasn't expecting to be as emotionally involved (and kind of got emotionally involved despite myself). I definitely shed a few tears, and I will offer up a few Hail Ozus to the film gods because I definitely stopped with 30 minutes left in the movie to watch that Fresh Prince clip where Aunt Viv does great in dance class. I think this would have been pretty splendid (and overwhelming) on the big screen.

I liked the performances (especially MacKay, who I know from Pride) and maybe my only qualm was that I had a few distracted moments of "Oh, hey! It's _______!".