1917. (IMAX) Review.

1917 has won a lot of positive press for being perhaps the most successful employment of the ” fake one take” style (despite the fact that film cuts to black at one point so charitably you could say it was two shots executed in this style. Don’t get me wrong as someone who saw it in IMAX as intended (this version is is mastered in the same IMAX enhanced aspect ratio as Avengers:Endgame) it’s a hugely impressive accomplishment and probably the most pure example of experience style filmmaking since Gravity. It does make you feel like you are in a war zone following the two central grants around as they try to deliver a message that will hopefully prevent a fruitless attack. The tension is incredibly high throughout and the film has several sequences (especially in the third act) that are brilliantly executed. So why am I why not as big a fan of the film as I want to be?
There are a couple of different reasons. It’s clear from the opening minutes that the film wants to invest just enough time in the central characters so that you care about them when they are are put in any number of dangerous situations. I’m not saying this doesn’t work but the film does such a brilliant job of crafting tension and atmosphere that on first viewing even during the slower moments where the film wants to establish character and banter between the two soldiers you get the sense that anything could be coming for them in a way that does a disservice to what these slower moments want to achieve.
It might be something of an unfair comparison but by broadening its scope to look at the experience of the soldiers more generally Peter Jackson and the team that put together They Shall Not Grow Old were much more effective at showcasing the horrors of war and what these young men had to go through in order to defend king and country. Similarly for as impressive and engaging as the filmmaking is it doesn’t hold a candle to Mr Robot Season 3 Episode 5 which is a masterclass in how to do to the “fake one take” style.
Don’t get me wrong 1917 is unbelievably impressive and is the sort of film everyone should experience at least once. That said between the character drama not being as engaging as the filmmakers wanted it to be and the general sense that I’ve seen these techniques and themes pulled off more effectively in other media I can’t deny that I’m not as high on it as I would like. I came out of the IMAX acknowledging the fantastic experience that I just had but questioning if I will ever watch the film again.

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