I saw the movie 1917 last night, and it’s stayed with me well into the morning. No spoilers here, just appreciation for an exceptional cinema experience. It’s the kind of movie I go to the movies to see; visually stunning, technical filmmaking with powerful acting that weaves between poignant scenes and heart-racing violence. Not the gratuitous, glamorized violence I’ve grown to hate in Hollywood nowadays (see the trailer for The Gentlemen for formula: turn your gun hand to 45 degrees and make a face), but the violent reality of a drawn-out war and the simplicity of two men on a mission in impossible conditions. It’s the kind of movie you feel privileged to see in a theater, with the seats vibrating with every bang and boom and the full immersion the big screen offers, but without the testosterone-enhanced machismo of the Xbox/CGI movies.
If this is the new golden age of television with HBO, Netflix and Amazon cranking out brilliant series, then where does that leave the classic craft of intelligent movies? Blockbusters rule the movies because they make money. I’ve had this debate with my aspiring screenwriter daughter and yes, I know, superhero films are an art form of their own. That’s fine if you’re into them (and I know millions are into them). Star Wars sequels and car chase movies pull in the dollars, but where do those of us that prefer to consume a different kind of entertainment experience go? I appreciate the occasional visit to a cinema to see a truly great movie, but feel reluctant to part with my money to see CGI with a soundtrack. So having a film like 1917 is a real treat – it satisfies both audiences. I hope it’s the highest grossing movie of the year, because more films like it would get produced.
I write all of this knowing the irony: I choose to keep the television off most of the time and wouldn’t be heartbroken to cut the cord altogether. I don’t play video games (computer chess is decidedly not a video game). I’d rather take a walk in the woods or on the beach than go see an Avengers movie. No, I’m most certainly not the target audience. Which should make it all the more impactful when a movie draws me in this way. If you can get me to go and rave about a movie, you should have a real winner on your hands. Hero’s journey without the overtly formula plot twists. Dignity, courage and determination in a two hour journey through the horror of WWI: The Great War, the war to end all wars…. yet didn’t. Go see 1917 in a great movie theater, you won’t regret it.