George McKay goes to war in 1917.

For Your Consideration: 1917

Dept. of AMPAS


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I know. I know. It sounds like the safe choice. 1917 has, after all, taken home awards from the Critics Choice Association, the Golden Globes, the BAFTAs, the Director’s Guild, and the Producer’s Guild. Going into the Oscars, the movie has, what they call, momentum. But then again, so did La La Land.

Now hear me out. Because I think there might be an upset. And I think it might come in the form of a 160 minute paean to a time when men were men, and women were women, and Hollywood was Hollywood.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. It is a magnificent piece of subjunctive history. A meandering fairy tale, steeped in nostalgia and popular culture, and made by a man who shamelessly mourns the fact that he was born too late to experience the era. Few movies have managed to capture a time and place so perfectly. But the real reason Tarantino might walk home with the top prize is because he’s essentially written a love letter to all those ageing Academy members.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that 1917 has this in the bag because most Oscar voters are probably old enough to remember The Great War. Well, they lived through the 1960s too, and God knows they preferred the era of free-love; irrespective of whether or not they remember it.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood might win Best Picture because it’s the safe choice for a small group of people yearning for the simple black and white that a fairy tale proffers. Why else would they pick Green Book over BlacKkKlansman?

But the problem with fairy tales is that they rarely speak to where we are right now. Or even who we are.

1917 does. And in deeply profound ways.

Forget, for a moment, the film’s stunning technical achievements. Set aside that magnificent performance by George MacKay. (I’ll never understand how Adam Driver was nominated for Marriage Story over this.) Ignore the fact that Sam Mendes has been snubbed by the Academy for 19 years; despite Road to Perdition, despite Revolutionary Road, despite Skyfall. Put all of that aside, and what you’re left with is still utterly unique, and, more importantly, absolutely essential.

1917 is about a time when wars were great. Not by way of being grand or glorious. But momentous. Our great grandfathers called it “the war to end all wars” because they genuinely thought that something like it could never, and should never, happen again. They were wrong.

1917 shows us why.

By showing us the toll that war takes on the individual. By showing us how society uses and abuses its young. Blending history and fact with memory and emotion. With that acknowledgement at the end, of how the movie was inspired by tales from his grandfather, Sam Mendes reminds us that there are still stories to be told and lessons to be learned. Especially in this era of the forever war.

And so, as we finger our smartphones, passively observing the hideous violence around us, convinced that war is something that only happens to other people – mostly poor, mostly oppressed, and mostly brown-ish – wouldn’t it be something if the movie that won this year’s Oscar for Best Picture was actually something that might maybe change our minds?

119 minutes
Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
Cast: George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Claire Duburcq, Colin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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