Film Review: 1917 (UK/USA 2019) ***** Top 10

1917 Poster
Trailer

Two young British privates during the First World War are given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, and one of the soldier’s brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap.

Director:

1917 Poster
Trailer

Two young British privates during the First World War are given an impossible mission: deliver a message deep in enemy territory that will stop 1,600 men, and one of the soldier’s brothers, from walking straight into a deadly trap.

Director:

Sam Mendes

Clearly the best film I have seen in 2019 – hands down – in terms of action, cinematography, direction, performances an art direction.  There is no greater pleasure than watching an almost perfect piece and 1917 is a minor masterpiece.

The story or film is based on, according  to the closing credits to stories told by Lance Corporal Alfred Mendes.  It is assumed that these stories were told to director Sam Mendes (SKYFALL, ROAD TO PERDITION, Oscar for Best Picture: AMERICAN BEAUTY) as grandfather to grandson.  The situation is that Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) are two Lance Corporals – and messengers.  At the height of the First World War during Spring 1917 in northern France, the two young British soldiers (looking very much like boys enlisted before age, as seen in last year’s riveting documentary THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD by Peter Jackson, an excellent companion piece to this film) are given a seemingly impossible mission to deliver a message from a general (Colin Firth) which will warn of an ambush during one of the skirmishes soon after the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line during Operation Alberich.  They race against time, crossing enemy territory to deliver the warning and keep a British battalion of 1,600 men, which includes Blake’s own brother, from walking into a deadly trap. The pair must give their all to accomplish their mission by surviving the war to end all wars.

Director Mendes and writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns up the angst with Schofiled damaging his hand wth barbed wire at the start of their mission.  In less than 15 minutes, an unexpected explosion (one that will surely cause many an audience to literally jump out of their seats) almost leaves him dead buried under a huge pile of rubble while the shaft they are in begin to collapse under more explosions.  The element of surprise (or shock) is ever present, so do not expect any periods of calm.

The most amazing achievement is the film’s cinematography by Richard Deakens.  The beginning sequence where the two make their way along the trenches is done in seems to be one long take, marvellously and miraculously executed in what is cinematic wonder and grace.  Apparently the effect of the one continuously long take was achieved by both elaborate long shots and choreographed camera movements. The camera is always in front of the two running men, showing their expressions of fear and anxiety where the background reveal the horrid conditions of the trenches and the other soldiers.  Another great feat is the crashing of a German bomber plane almost on top of the lance corporals.  That segment marks not only the film’s best segment but the one that changes the whole course (the spoiler will not be disclosed in this review) of the story.

The horror of WWI is revealed in all its goriness from the dead bodies, the rats, mud, crows and bleak skies.  It is a dystopian landscape that depicts the end of the world as seen by anyone on 1917 Northern France.  The music by Thomas Newman is appropriately scored.

The film’s comes with a message as delivered by Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) that hope can be a very dangerous thing.  Ironically, the opposite of this message is delivered in another Christmas film, JUST MERCY.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqNYrYUiMfg

Film Review: Mowgli (USA/UK 2018)***

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle Poster
Trailer

A human child raised by wolves must face off against a menacing tiger named Shere Khan, as well as his own origins.

Director:

Andy Serkis

Writers:

Callie Kloves (screenplay by), Rudyard Kipling (based on the stories of)

MOWGLI is a curiosity piece, a non-Walt Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK.  Made by Warner Bros and and slotted for release in 2016 the same time as Disney’s live action THE JUNGLE BOOK, with both films based on the Rudyard Kipling stories, MOWGLI was delayed two years and in the meantime got bought over by Netflix.  After an initial November release in the theatres, MOWGLI can presently be seen on Netflix.  Needless to day, watching it on the big screen in 3-D is optimal, as expressed by director Serkis himself.  MOWGLI is a quality film like many of he new Netflix originals these days, the most notable being ROMA which is also playing and likely to be nominated for Best Foreign Film.

The story runs along the same lines as the animated Disney’s 60’s full length cartoon and its 2016 live action version.

MOWGLI begins with the appearance in the jungle of Kaa (Cate Blancette), an Indian python seer, watches as Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), a crippled Bengal tiger, breaks jungle law by hunting down a family of humans, with only the child escaping.  Bagheera (Christian Bale), drawn to the scene, rescues the man-cub, Mowgli (Rowan Chand), and takes him to a family of wolves being raised by Nisha (Naomi Harris) and Vihaan (Eddie Marsan), only for Tabaqui (Tom Haollander), Shere Khan’s hyena follower, to find the boy before he is chased off.  They take the infant Mowgli before the wolf council and Akela (Peter Mullan), the pack leader, to decide his fate, with Bagheera buying his life with a kill and Baloo strong-armed into agreeing. Shere Khan arrives to kill Mowgli, but Akela stops him, saying the boy is now a member of the pack and forces Shere Khan to leave, but not before the tiger vows to return.

The story goes on with Mowgli discovering his own kind (the man village).  The climax is the fight between MOWGLI and There Khan.  Kaa intervenes to save Mowgl near the end.

Serkis’ versions the most serious of all the JUNGLE BOOK film, undoubtedly.  There are scenes where carcasses are eaten.  The animals like the slimy python, Kaa look incredibly real and therefore scary – perhaps too scary for children under the age of 10.  A few sentimental hogwash segments like Nisha telling Mowgli that he belongs, no matter what others say, could have been dispensed with.  The film is also too playful for adults.  One wonders the target audience of the filmmakers.

The time gap between Disney’s THE JUNGLE BOOK and MOWGLI helps.  For one, many would have forgotten the main story- and if not at least a few key plot points.  

Netlflix buying the film from Warner Bros. is likely a good thing as this gives the film a different distribution, be in cables subscribers.  The chance of losing money on this one is less as well.  The cost of production is not listed but it must be up there in the millions, as the film’s special effects are exceptional.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FB1KTG-O1V0

Happy Birthday: Benedict Cumberbatch

benedictcumberbatch.jpgHappy Birthday actor Benedict Cumberbatch

Born: July 19, 1976 in Hammersmith, London, England, UK

Married to: Sophie Hunter (14 February 2015 – present) (1 child)

 

 

 

 

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