Monday, January 27, 2020     Volume: 20, Issue: 47
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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
AD ASTRA
AVENGERS: ENDGAME
BAD BOYS FOR LIFE
BINGEABLE: Barry
BINGEABLE: CASA DE LAS FLORES
BINGEABLE: FLEABAG
BINGEABLE: GRACE AND FRANKIE
BINGEABLE: INTO THE DARK
BINGEABLE: MAGIC FOR HUMANS
BINGEABLE: NATHAN FOR YOU
BINGEABLE: RUSSIAN DOLL
BINGEABLE: STRANGER THINGS 3
BINGEABLE: THE PEOPLE V. O.J. SIMPSON: AMERICAN CRIME STORY
BINGEABLE: THE SINNER (SEASON 2)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: COOL RUNNINGS (1993)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: FISH TANK (2009)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: FRIENDS
BLAST FROM THE PAST: HOUSE
BLAST FROM THE PAST: LONE WOLF MCQUADE
BLAST FROM THE PAST: OLDBOY
BLAST FROM THE PAST: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
BLAST FROM THE PAST: ROBOCOP
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE MATRIX
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE PRESTIGE (2006)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY
BLAST FROM THE PAST: WILD AT HEART
BLAST FROM THE PAST: YOU’VE GOT MAIL
BOMBSHELL
BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON
CATS
DARK WATERS
DOCTOR SLEEP
DOLITTLE
DOWNTON ABBEY
FORD V FERRARI
FROZEN II
GUILTY PLEASURE: THE HANGOVER
GUILTY PLEASURES: BARBIE LIFE IN THE DREAMHOUSE
GUILTY PLEASURES: GIRL MEETS WORLD (2014-2017)
HAEWATCH: THE WITCHER (2019)
HATEWATCH: CHOPPED
HATEWATCH: FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER’S MONSTER, FRANKENSTEIN
HATEWATCH: NAILED IT!
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
JOJO RABBIT
JOKER
JUMANJI: THE NEXT LEVEL
KNIVES OUT
LIKE A BOSS
LITTLE WOMEN
MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL
MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
ONCE UPON A TIME … IN HOLLYWOOD
RICHARD JEWELL
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME (EXTENDED CUT)
SPIES IN DISGUISE
STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
THE GRUDGE
THE LIGHTHOUSE
THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON
THE TURNING
UNCUT GEMS
UNDERRATED: BATMAN BEGINS
UNDERRATED: INSOMNIA
UNDERRATED: SHUTTER ISLAND
UNDERRATED: THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL
UNDERRATED: THE FALLING
UNDERWATER
YESTERDAY
ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP

1917 is a remarkable cinematic achievement and a ripping good war story

1917

PHOTO BY PHOTO COURTESY OF DREAMWORKS

1917


Where is it playing?: Parks Plaza, Santa Maria 14

What's it rated?: R

What's it worth?: $Full price (Glen Starkey)

What's it worth?: $Full price (Anna Starkey)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Co-writer and director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead, Spectre) helms this World War I epic about two young British soldiers—Lance Cpl. Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Cpl. Schofield (George MacKay)—who are tasked with the impossibly dangerous mission of crossing German lines to warn the 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment that their planned impending attack against the Germans will be charging into a deadly ambush, and to make the perilous mission even more urgent, Blake’s brother is among the 1,600 endangered soldiers in the regiment. (119 min.)

Glen: Holy heck! If this film doesn’t result in a Best Cinematography win for director of photography Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049, Skyfall, No Country for Old Men, Fargo), then the Academy is broken. This is a remarkable technical achievement. The photography makes it appear as if the film is shot in one long and continuous take, which lends the picture an immediacy and an immersive quality that makes this terrific but simple story even more engaging. There are, of course, some breaks in the filming—for instance when everything goes black after an explosion or when the two characters move from daylight into an inky black tunnel. I’m guessing, too, some CGI was employed in service to the one-long-take illusion, but there are a lot of long extended takes as the camera moves around the actors, goes in and out of various lighting situations, makes some rack focus changes to draw viewers’ attention, and follows Lance Cpls. Blake and Schofield on their death-defying mission. The camera work is simply stunning. The two men must traverse about 8 miles through enemy territory, which had reportedly been evacuated, but along the way the men encounter boobytrapped German trenches and tunnels, an aerial dogfight, a sniper, and more. They’re in a race to deliver their message and save 1,600 soldiers from slaughter, but they’re not superhuman heroes—they’re scared boys traveling through a battlefield littered with bodies, and they know only too well that they could easily join the rotting dead.

Anna: It certainly is an achievement in cinematography; the execution of the continuous-take style filming is astounding. The storyline does not fall short of the film’s epic visuals—the two young men who have been tasked with saving more than 1,600 soldiers from certain death are heartbreakingly real. Blake’s brother is in the group of men fated to die if orders to call off the attack are not delivered, and his love for family and for his big brother are evident as soon as he learns of his task. He will not wait for nightfall; he will not stop no matter the danger. Schofield is a bit more mysterious—though bits and pieces of his life back home are given to us throughout the film. The two are smart and brave; they’re young yet already will bear the battle scars of war. The scenery is both breathtaking in its beauty and heartbreaking with wartime gore. The Germans have retreated to a line further back, but have destroyed the landscape in their wake. Cherry trees have been cut to the ground while their ephemeral blossoms waft through the breeze like snow; cows were slaughtered by machine guns simply to prevent the other side from being left a food source. The countryside is its own kind of war casualty. Despite the blood and bloated corpses and mud and violence, this film is magnificently beautiful. I was captivated until the very end.

Glen: The film boasts some great actors in small but essential roles. Colin Firth is Gen. Erinmore, the man who gives Blake and Schofield their impossible orders. Mark Strong is Capt. Smith, who they meet along the way as he’s trying to lead his own squad through enemy territory on another mission. He warns them that when they deliver the order to stand down, to do it in front of witnesses because some commanders just want the fight. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Col. MacKenzie, who indeed seems hell-bent on charging his men into battle. Each of these actors brings gravitas to their roles, but the story belongs to the two young men, and relatively unknown actors Chapman and MacKay deliver compelling performances. Apparently, the basis for the story came from director Mendes’ grandfather, Alfred Mendes, a war hero who would enthrall his grandkids with stories that were eventually published in his posthumous memoir. I won’t be a bit surprised if in addition to Best Cinematography, 1917 also wins Best Picture and Best Director (though Pedro Almadóvar is currently favored in the category) at the upcoming Feb. 8 Academy Awards. Mendes recently won the Best Director title from the Golden Globes, and 1917 also took home the Golden Globes’ Best Motion Picture-Drama award. Of course, there’s also Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, The Irishman, Parasite, Ford v. Ferrari, Joker, Little Women, Jojo Rabbit, Marriage Story, The Farewell—some stiff competition this year! Win or not, 1917 is a must-see film on the big screen. Don’t miss it!

Anna: Agreed, this one is meant for the big screen. It would be a huge mistake to miss this one in theaters—no matter how big your TV is, subtle detail will get lost in translation. It certainly will be a tough year at the Oscars, but 1917 has earned its place and then some in the nominations. I’m very impressed with the two leads—everyone else is periphery, and Chapman and McKay weave a complicated narrative among the travesties of war. I hope to see more of these two on the big screen soon. If nothing else, 1917 is a triumph in filmmaking. It is so cleverly and meticulously shot it deserves all of the accolades it receives. Even if war movies aren’t your favorite genre, the heroic journey that happens within the 8 miles traveled is harrowing and heartbreaking. Schofield and Blake are in a forced brotherhood, a pact to see their mission through to the bitter end, slung together through whatever impedes their path. Every action comes down to the razor-thin chance they have of reaching MacKenzie in time and hoping he will heed the direct orders. It’s a heart-pumping journey, with moments that feel guardedly private in their grief and sentiment, yet large and unbending in a show of the brute force of will and war. This is one I’d happily see again before it leaves the theater—it is just that good. 

Sun Screen is written by New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and his wife, Anna. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.




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