I’ve been waiting nearly two years to see the film 1917.
In 2001, I watched the mini-series “Band of Brothers” by myself, in bed, on Sunday nights at a motel in Centralia. Since then I cannot tell you how many times I have watched each of the ten episodes. My top three are “Currahee,” “Day of Days,” and “The Last Patrol.” Although each episode has special highlights and great storylines, you’ve grown to recognize and care for the men of Easy Company and you know many of them are going to die. You feel the pain and sadness. The episode Day of Days tells the story of D-Day and the invasion of Normandy. We see the “jump” of the parachutists, the confusion, and the first battle. Pvt. Hall, called “Cowboy” is not a member of Easy Company, but went through the same training at the same camp. Hall is a radio man, but lost his radio in the initial jump. On the ground he teams up with Lt. Winters, who lost his rifle in the jump. Together they begin finding remnants of Easy Company. Lt. Winters is to lead a squad against Brécourt Manor where an unknown force of Germans with machine guns, and howitzers are killing Americans from a distance. Hall is not selected to go because he is not part of Easy Company. He follows along anyway and winds up being the only member of the small force that is killed. This foretells the death of more of the people you’ve grown to care about. Andrew Scott plays Hall. Hall could have stayed safe, but chose to fight. Scott gave the character life and you feel his loss.
Watch the trailer for Band of Brothers – imdb.com/video/vi3629711385
A few years ago I saw the film “Pride.” The movie came out in 2014, but it concerns a lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984. Based on real people, gay activists join forces with the miners when they realize the gays are no longer targets by the police. The police have become the common enemy. The gays explain that charges must be made immediately. Upon hearing this, one of the wives marches into the local constabulary, explains the law to the local police and demands that her husband and others must be released. They were. One of the gays, who grew up in Wales (major mining area), is played by Andrew Scott. Again, Scott gives an excellent performance of love and humor facing hatred and danger.
Also, in “Pride” there is a lonely and shy young man named Joe who is swept up in the moment. He’s watching a gay protest going through the streets of London and is given a standard to hold and soon finds himself marching along. He’s accepted by the group and is jokingly given the name of Bromley (a London borough). Bromley is played by George MacKay. Bromley volunteers to be the photographer of the group and works his way into being a reliable key member.
Watch the trailer for Pride – imdb.com/video/vi2804329497
I didn’t think I knew any of the actors in 1917, but as I watched the film I realized I was wrong. We see entrenched soldiers played by Collin Firth, and Benedict Cumberbatch, and surprise . . . Andrew Scott.
Lance Corporal Blake, played by Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones), is chosen to take a message to 1600 British troops who are under orders to attack the Germans the next morning. The Germans have laid a trap and wait to wipe out the allied troops. Blake’s older brother is an officer in the awaiting British offense.
Before Blake is given his assignment he is told to choose someone. He chooses his medal winning friend Lance Corporal Schofield played by George MacKay. If he had been told the danger, he would have chosen someone else. Soon the two of them are traveling through trenches . . . across no man’s land . . . making their way through underground passages . . . dodging bullets and a German bi-plane. Like Band of Brothers and Pride we experience the constant threats around every turn, every doorway, every movement. We see bodies and pieces of bodies. The simple chore of delivering a message becomes a saga and a quest that touches many people along the way.
1917 is directed by Sam Mendes. The scenery changes from blossoms to ruins and the action changes from private moments, to shared efforts and plain exhaustion. By the end we’re as weary as Lance Corporal Schofield. George MacKay has come a long way since Bromley. World War I created World War II, which created . . . well, the saga continues . . . we’re still fighting . . . for some reason . . . or the lack there of.
Watch the trailer 1917 – imdb.com/video/vi4095655705
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
Eric Chandler says
1917, THE MOVIE. ABSOLUTELY superb! It is the finest and most historically accurate drama I have ever seen on World War I.
I can make that kind of statement because I have been studying WWI since 1975 when I took a course in Germany (I was in the US Army) from the University of Maryland entitled, “World War I, A Living History”.
For each of the 10 weeks of that course we first read and talked about a particular period of that conflagration. Then the following weekend, we went to the place or places we had just covered. That experience changed my life. During my last European assignment in Belgium 1980-1982 I revisited many of those Western-Front battlefields with my family, as well as others that had not been covered in the course.
Since then I have collected and read nearly 700 books on WWI. I have also collected military artifacts (including from the battlefields), trench art, films, music sheets, art, military miniature models, and other items for the period 1870 – 1920. Further I have given lectures to high school students about the consequences of that conflict and why, even over 100 years later, we are still impacted by its outcomes.
There is one other “must see” film……entitled, “They Shall Not Grow Old”. It is a documentary that presents actual footage taken during the war in the British Sector….from the Somme in France to Ypres, Belgium. Here is the description from Wikipedia:
“The film was created using original footage of the First World War from the Imperial War Museum’s archives, most previously unseen, all over 100 years old by the time of release. Audio is from BBC and Imperial War Museum (IWM) interviews of British servicemen who fought in the conflict. Most of the footage has been colourised and transformed with modern production techniques, with the addition of sound effects and voice acting to be more evocative and feel closer to the soldiers’ actual experiences.”
There are many other movies and documentaries for this conflict and most are worthy of helping anyone get a real-sense of what that cataclysm entailed.
If anyone is interested in getting a list of media for WWI you can contact The Suburban Times Editor to get my email address.
Oh yeah….thanx Don for bringing this truly awesome movie into the limelight.