Movie Time - 1917 (2019)
Recently, I rewatched the one take legacy that is 1917. Without further ado, the movie is set in World War 1, or the Great War. Specifically the year… 1917. About 3 years into the war, a point where both sides drew weary to the duration of the war, which was predicted to end in 3 months. It is important to state this is loosely based on a true story dramatized for the big screen. Our main characters, Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake is given a task as backline soldiers to invade and pass through no man’s land to give orders to end a European ambush. The major plot device is the struggle to pass through the supposed fled German-occupied lands. The reason Blake and Schofield are chosen is because of relations in the attack. At the front lines, Cpl. Blake’s brother, Lt. Joseph Blake, prepares for attack. The reason for the retreat is because of the German strategic withdrawal in which they will intercept and kill 1,600 of the European Battalion.
It is obvious to say, but nevertheless, there will be major spoilers to the movie and I highly suggest watching the movie before reading this analysis. Continuing I will give major props to the whole crew and cast of this movie for being able to master the neverending shot. The whole movie, aside from when Schofield gets shot and it transitions to Act 2. Moving on, I’ll begin at the start. We get a scene of the mission debriefing and Blake and Schofield march to the end of the trench. Before they started their march and before the debrief you may notice the slow casual walking through the trenches and backline. We also get references to the rats, lack of food, and sickness that went through. In WW1 it was absolutely disgusting as real plumbing wasn’t accessible because the start of the war left Europe to quickly build trenches in wetlands, not to mention in reference to the German high ground it was awful. If you weren’t being attacked by rodents, later referenced by one of Blake’s stories about a man’s ear being eaten off by a rat, you were being submerged under water-filled trenches. The water was so high it in some parts reached up to the knee. The movie somewhat references this however it would have been nearly impossible to represent this without having an even longer movie as they pushed through the water. I aforementioned the German’s had the high ground and that was essential to the German mortars, which rained as long as they had ammunition to supply. Represented by their passing gigantic piles of mortar missile shells piling higher than their heads. This led to European forces to pile dead bodies in a corner where they would rot and attract more rats. The whole European trench was a major loop of disease, rodents, death, disgusting smells, and starvation. And for the most part, 1917 displays this perfectly in the background.
Back to our character’s they begin through no man’s land and we begin seeing the endless dead bodies. A very disturbing scene even showing Schofield cutting his hand on barbed wire and accidentally slipping and putting his open wound straight into a dead man’s rodent filled chest. As they traverse a small theme begins to arise, where Blake always is picking Schofield up. By helping him through barbed wire, waking him up, when he falls, when he needs help up a hill, this will connect to later in the film. They finally make it to the German trenches where they are relieved after a suspenseful pause, that the German’s have actually withdrawn. They now make their way through the German trenches to find a small tunnel they must pass through to make it out and pass. To their surprise, they find some huge rats and food supplies. At a small pause, Schofield spots a tripwire, which out of movie sense, like in Avenger’s Endgame, a rat comes and activates the wire triggering a bomb that buries Schofield under rubble that Blake begins breaking off. For the last time, Schofield is picked up by Blake and dragged out of the crumbling German trench. This is where after we get a scene of the mortars used so much they all have destroyed barrels and piles of thousands of mortar missiles. Not only that but we also get some imagery in the background. Schofield and Blake move forward as in the background there is a burnt single tree standing on the distant hill. Again this connects to the ending.
As they move forward they make it to a small farm and clear the area to take a small break. Blake displays his farming knowledge by calling out the cut-down cherry trees which he knows plenty of. Another connection to the trees, at the beginning, where there were none in no man’s land, only deserted dead lands. As well as the tree they slept under at the start and the dead tree after the German trenches. They begin to stand in awe of a distant dogfight of 2 European pilots against one German plane. As the German man is shot down he begins to crash land straight into the barn that they were occupying. The German survives the crash and out of pure heroism and dumb movie moves, Blake tries to save the man in the burning plane. They drag him out and Blake asks Schofield to get water to tend to the burns. In this tense moment, Schofield turns back to a terrified Blake who has been stabbed and he acts by killing the German with 3 shots. Sad but true, Blake slowly bleeds out and tells Schofield, his best friend, his final wishes. To save his brother and write back to his mother. And for the last time, Schofield picks up Blake’s dead body to drag it to a clean area to finally rest.
As he drags Blake with some help, demonstrating how Schofield was not ready for the journey and may still not be able to. As it continues he is able to get on European trucks to the next town over where he needs to pass through and make it to Colonel Mackenzie and stop the attack. Schofield begins to get shot right after parting ways with the European trucks. Leading him to retaliate and get shot and blackout. This is where we get a break to night time when bombs and fires off in the background. He awakens to realize that he is running out of time and runs out to be shot at again in which he just begins to run. He gets chased and escapes to a small trap door where he finds a hiding French woman with an infant. The child was not hers and she wished him to stay but he had to leave after a heartfelt moment of parenting. He runs out to sneak past the guards and heads to a river which he was instructed to do by the woman. The stealth becomes an all-out run away from German soldiers firing at him. He escapes again by jumping straight into the river and reaches its end. Where he is met by a ton of dead bodies that were dumped into the river. As he paddles through the dead bodies he reaches the trees where he was instructed to make it to. Just more tree symbolism to add to the list.
He coughs and struggles to walk through the forest and begins to hear a beautiful song. The song is called Wayfaring Stranger, which is an old 19th-century American folk song. Schofield begins to rest on a tree, which adds to more imagery. The song also connects to the notion of returning home. A small thing referenced at the start about how the war was to end by Christmas. He realizes that it was the Battalion he was looking for and all he needed to do was make it to the Colonel, the problem was that the attack was about to begin. As he rushes through everyone he makes it to the Colonel. After an amazing run through explosions and the flurry of men running into battle. The attack is called off and Schofield makes it to Cpl. Blake’s Brother, Joseph, and tells him the news. And in final words gives him his brother’s necklace and rings to signify the ending of a good man. And in a final scene, Schofield rests on a tree and gazes in the sunrise as he takes out a photo that says “Come Back” as well as a picture of his 2 daughters and wife.
To wrap it up, there was symbolism in trees, themes of picking one another up, and the return of soldiers. I do want to say there were some historically accurate moments. I can praise one being the introduction of Indian soldiers that were brought in by Europe to support its troops in battle. First off the symbolism in trees starts off with a casual nap under a lively tree and moves to deserted lands and into a single standing burnt tree. And then to cut down cherry trees, the objective of a forest, and the final rest on a giant tree. I believe in every instance of a tree being there it represents a mood and plot change. The beginning rest tree was a casual slumpy tree and the beginning of the 2’s journey. Moving to the deadlands of no man’s land into the German trenches wherein everything is deserted. To the cherry blossoms representing Blake’s death. To the relief of seeing many trees, a beautiful song, and allies he can trust. To the final ending, a huge tree under a sunrise symbolizing the new day after a long-fought journey. The return of a soldier is about something that is a theme up unto now, our soldiers out there in the world waiting and fighting to come home and protect those they love. Definitely, the watch and experience were a grand time and I think many will enjoy and reminisce with. A solid 4 out of 5.