Let’s Talk About: 1917
This is going to be an atrociously long blog post, so let’s just get into it.
Awards: Academy Award for Best Cinematography
2019-early 2020 was a fantastic year for movies. Just looking back on the 2020 Oscar nominees makes me remember why the fight for best picture was so rough. I don’t have any argument at all against Parasite winning best picture so I’m really glad that 1917 got the recognition it deserves with best cinematography.
If you’ve read my post on Sicario, you’ll understand my recent adoration for Mr. Roger Deakins. Although I’m a firm believer, having only seen three of his movies (I know, I’m working on it) that he deserves more than two oscars, I’m thankful he at least got this one as his second.
The thing about 1917, is it’s not a movie that should win just for being shot to appear as if it is all one take. It’s how Deakins and the entire movie team took that opportunity and then made every single shot and moment of this film amazing.
If you’re the kind of person to see a movie shot in a unique way like this and then immediately be struck with interest and flooded with questions like how, what, who, why, and when, then here’s a great youtube video on how the entire movie appears to be a singular take.
Some of the Most Memorable Scenes
I haven’t done this yet on this blog, where I directly talk about my three top scenes, but I’m excited to highlight a few scenes from this movie. It also helps that I could find and re-watch them on Youtube since it’s nearly been a year since I saw this movie.
First up, the opening scene.
I basically decided to see this movie for three reasons:
1- I love a good war movie, as typical as that is I think some of them can be so heart-wrenching and the storylines are always so far removed from my personal life. They really put things into perspective. On top of that, I genuinely haven’t seen that many of the ‘purely battlefield storylines’ besides Dunkirk.
2- Roger Deakins’ name in the trailer.
3- The fact that I heard or read something about it being all in one shot.
Now the third point, I wasn’t sure if that was true, so going into the film I still managed to be surprised. I distinctly remember nudging my friend about five minutes in and whispering “holy cow, it’s actually.. one shot, like no joke”.
Here’s the scene I’m talking about if you want to check it out: the first 9 minutes of the film.
Second up, the flare scene.
Now this scene is backed up with a breathtaking score behind it. The entire score is fantastic but this specific track is by far one of the best. If you want to check it out on it’s own, the track is called “The Night Window”.
When I first saw the movie I honestly didn’t really take a lot away from this scene. Now, re-watching it almost a year later I’m a little embarrassed to admit that, but it’s just over the halfway point so my brain was definitely getting worn out from all of the action. But afterwards, when I did my post-movie research, I found out this scene was filmed using actual, real flares. Boom. Just another topping to the cake that is any Roger Deakins’ movie.
Check the scene out here, and make sure you listen to it because the score just makes it even more impactful.
Lastly, one of the last scenes of the movie and probably the most outstanding is “the explosion scene” (which, taken out of context doesn’t mean much considering the whole film is a series of explosions but it’s the running one at the end? You know? From the trailer? Okay).
I remember reading somewhere that this scene was only shot four times, or only could be shot four times because they only had so many live explosives. Don’t quote me on that but either way this scene can’t really get any more impressive.
Not only was this scene filmed in a way I have never seen done before, still manage to have a cool score, include hundreds of extras, (yes) still shot in one continuous take, include real, live explosives, but it also managed to give every single person chills that watches it. And I can only say that because I firmly believe that if you can watch this scene without either wanting to yell, cry, or pass out then I don’t know who you are.
If you’re going to take anything away from this blog post, it’s that I want you to watch this scene. I’m not even going to suggest you watch it, just watch it! Just.. go watch it now.
Anyway, I’ve been droning on about how fabulous this movie, but I have one more word to fit into this post about it.
When I first heard about it I definitely thought “another war movie?”. Fair criticism. There seems to be a saturated market for war movies. I’m a firm believer that diverse stories should be told with these kinds of big budgets and talented film-makers. However, this fact doesn’t take away from the brilliance of this film. To me, 1917 in the end really wasn’t “just another war movie” and more of a way to show off the amazing things creative people can do with technology, great actors, crazy impressive camera work and a lot of time. I think this is why, as much as I do believe 1917 is an amazing picture, Parasite was the best picture and deserved a spotlight moment.