1917: a movie review

The impact of historically accurate movies (Spoilers ahead)


Photo courtesy of collections.museumvictoria.com via Creative Commons

Emma Swain and Valiyah Henry, Author

Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to see the much raved about movie, 1917. The movie was released on December 4, 2019 and was announced as a portrayal of an important mission conducted by two soldiers during World War I. The mission, carried out by Lance Corporal Schofield and Lance Corporal Blake, was a trip through enemy territory to deliver a message to Colonel Mackenzie regarding the British attack on the Germans. The letter, if delivered on time, had the power to save 1,600 soldiers, including Corporal Blake’s older brother.   

The movie was filmed in a continuous shot without any cut scenes. This is a rather difficult thing to accomplish and requires a certain genre of movie to do. The scenes were filmed all over the UK as well as in Scotland, although it has not been revealed which scene was filmed there. This aided in making the movie feel more realistic by highlighting the details in the background as well as maintaining the story line through their actions. 

Even though there is much sadness and desperation tied to World War I, the movie was truly eye-opening in terms of visualizing the emotional trauma and physical pain these soldiers went through. For example, there was one scene in which Schofield and Blake came across a farm. A dog fight broke out above them between two British airplanes and a German airplane where the German plane crash landed on the farm. Blake, being genuine and kind, ran to save the German pilot from the plane, but upon dragging him out of the plane and putting out the fire on his pants, the pilot stabbed Blake. Schofield was forced to shoot the pilot to save Blake and himself, but Blake eventually died from the fatal wound. Throughout the rest of the movie, Schofield was told by other British soldiers not to “dwell on his friend’s death.” It truly opened our eyes to the suppression of emotions and lack of morals involved with war as well as the lack of sympathy faced on both sides of the war. 

Another important aspect of the movie was how it addressed the hierarchy within the British army. Upon delivering the message to Colonel Mackenzie, Schofield was immediately dismissed and brushed off as unimportant even after alerting them that he had an urgent message. After Mackenzie read the letter and called off the attack, he did not recognize Schofield’s struggles and journey to deliver the message. Instead he was told that he would “have to make this journey again” because next time it would be “an attack at dawn.” Essentially, Mackenzie was taking his anger out on Schofield and letting him know of the constant indecisiveness related to war. 

The movie 1917 was very impactful in the sense that it acknowledged the inhumanity of war and our ability to turn off all sense of reality and morals when it comes to fighting another nation. Even if the movie was a dramatized take on a part of World War I, it still succeeded in making the audience feel the raw pain and fear, sympathy, and anxiety that these soldiers felt while fighting. We came out with a better sense of understanding of the hardships and emotional pain that these soldiers faced everyday during not only World War I but World War II as well.