Golden Globes Preview

Dean-Charles Chapman (left) and George MacKay appear in a scene from “1917,” directed by Sam Mendes.

This is going to sound ridiculous, but World War II seems to be the most popular war. Adolf Hitler’s reign of terror and the valiant men and women who fought it have been the subject of countless movies, TV series, documentaries and books. WWII is a historic time that has been told again and again.

But, “1917” shines a light on an earlier war: World War I. It’s the First World War, or the Great War, as some call it. According to Wikipedia, it’s also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, killing 7 million civilians as a “direct result of war.” That number barely scratches the surface, though.

The film tells the story of two young British soldiers — Lance Cpls. Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George Mackay) — who set off on a seemingly impossible quest: In order to save 1,600 men and Blake’s brother, they must stop the 2nd battalion from embarking on a suicide mission against German forces with devastating weapons. They must get to the commanding officer and have him call off the attack, or it’ll be a massacre.

The two must travel a number of miles, and they’ll be crossing German-occupied lands, including the infamous No Man’s Land. Supposedly, the Germans have left No Man’s Land, but it’s one of the first moments in the film where you truly feel the peril of these two men and the risky journey they must take.

It’s a land covered with bodies, barb wire and crevices from which you can’t escape. It’s not only the first of their worries, but it might also be the easiest to overcome. (Side note: I couldn’t help but flash back to the awe-inspiring, tear-inducing scene when Diana crosses No Man’s Land in “Wonder Woman.” Very different story, but both are emotionally impactful, although for very different reasons.)

For Blake, failure isn’t an option. He has to save his brother. It’s the most important thing he’s ever been asked to do. For Schofield, the mission doesn’t have the same personal significance, and his dedication to the task at hand wavers a time or two early on. It’s not that he’s a bad soldier or disloyal to the cause. In fact, he’s a decorated war hero, having earned a medal during a previous battle. No, it’s something else.

For Schofield, there’s an almost palpable sadness that permeates every moment. As Blake tells jokes, Schofield focuses on the next move. He’s tactical. He stashes food in his knapsack, just in case. He carries a metal case to hold important documents. He’s always looking at what the next best course of action is.

Both dedicated and both focused on the mission, albeit for different reasons. But, Blake doesn’t have the same attention to detail. He’s focused on medals and his hunger, while Schofield is looking for a way past a barbed wire fence or discovering a trip wire that could easily spell doom. There’s a naivete about Blake. He wants to do good, and he wants to stop the bad guys, but it’s because it’s what he believes he should do. Schofield, though, is just tired. He’ll keep fighting, but he just wants it all to end so he can go home and forget he was ever in this godforsaken war.

When folks talk about “1917,” many of them focus on the amazing way the movie is shot. Director Sam Mendes, cinematographer Roger Deakins and their talented crew have crafted a film that looks like it’s just one rolling scene. From the first moments Blake and Schofield are woken from a nap and given their marching orders, the entire journey across several miles flows seamlessly.

The movie “1917” is well crafted. It is gorgeously rendered by Deakins, and the screenplay provides a serious story with just enough levity to not make it unbearable. There are moments of suspense and tension that feel as immersive and real as anything I’ve ever seen in my life. There are also cameos that delight and impress so much that you’ll want to nudge the nearest moviegoer with your elbow. All in all, it’s worthy of a trip to your local theater.

Amanda Greever is a former editor, designer and writer at The Daily Times. She now works in public relations. Contact her at amanda

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