Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Well done, lad.

Every year, my dad travels from Hawai'i to spend his Christmas Break with my family in Pennsylvania. And every year, him and I carve out two hours or so to go to exactly one film. Typically we leave it up to chance, but this year I knew exactly what the film was going to be.

Two weeks before he was supposed to board the plane, he suffered a major tear in his aorta. Something called an aortic dissection. Not only weren't we going to see a movie, but it felt like we weren't going to see each other. Uh, ever again. It got to the point where I was terrified of my phone, because any chirp, buzz or alarm was going to signal something terrible had happened. Living in a heightened state...ain't really living at all.

Somehow though, he made it. Though he's not likely ever to be out of the woods, this slight progress? Well, we're gonna classify as pure f--king bonus. Because, frankly?

The whole situation is totally f--ked.

1917 is a very simple story, told in the most [technically] complex way possible. Set on April 6th (the day America joined the war), director Sam Mendes' masterclass in film-making is essentially a two-hour journey from point A to point B. And it's un-effing believable.

Given the vague orders of grab a mate and go see the general, young Lance Corporal Blake enlists his friend, the slightly more battle-hardened Lance Corporal Schofield to join him.

What could have been a meeting about something minor, turns out to be one that will have major consequences for both. Their orders are to deliver a message to the Western front, where 1,600 men are heading into a trap laid by the allegedly retreating Germans. If Blake and Schofield don't make it, or are too late, the entire battalion will be killed, with Blake's older brother among the casualties.

From there, like, immediately from that moment, Blake and Schofield are off at an absolute breakneck pace. While there are moments where these two get to discuss the validity of recognition or perhaps share a funny story, otherwise they are, rightfully so, on high alert at all times. But they weren't the only ones. Despite not much happening, I'm convinced that if they had been placed in further peril, World War might have claimed another naive soul.


While some have said the movie is essentially a beautiful gimmick, the technical wizardry would mean nothing if we didn't care so much about these two young men. And while I was absolutely astounded by the seamless (and relentless) nature of the camera work and visuals, they weren't what kept me so painfully clenched for two hours

Though we've known them just a couple of minutes, seeing ourselves in Blake and Schofield is effortless. Obviously, they're in the absolute thick of it, but war is so easily a symbol for all conflicts we face, it's impossible to not identify with one (or both) of these men. In over our heads, along for the ride, thrust into something we've no say in, Hell, trying to help a friend? Whatever crisis you've ever found yourself in - it's all here. And that's if you've time to step back for a second. But as anyone who has seen this film knows, you're not given that second. 

Ever. And that's the absolute beauty/f--k of it all, you know?

Speaking of time you don't have, here are the Yays and Boos. I've no choice but to load them up with spoilers, so unlike Blake and Schofield, consider yourself...warned.

I'm convinced this dude is a long-lost Weasly.
(translation: I will forever love George Mackay)

  • So, everything Hell, war is awful and I hate everythi-- but there's a dog! Aww.
  • Nothing like a strip of ribbon to cheer up a widow.
  • The dude in charge at the front was the right kind of intense (even though his attitude was [rightfully] shit, I still loved this guy). Cross at the dead horses. Don't get shot. Let us know you're not dead. 
  • The plane crash scene was f--king incredible. They're just kind of casually watching a dogfight and then -like that- they're part of it.
  • Mark Strong shows up and, for a minute, everything was going to be okay. 
  • Even if it was only a minute, I very much appreciated what Gabriel Akuwudike brought at Private Buchanan. 
  • My God, never in my life did I consider the fact that some gung-ho general would be like f--k all that when given orders to fall back. The tip to make sure people are around is wild, but appreciated.
  • How stunning were those shots with the flares?
  • Yes, I was nervous the entire time they were talking, sure, but also yes did I absolutely love the scene where Schofield meets that young French woman with the baby. It was so sobering, but also kind of lovely in a way, too. (it also makes the ending much more of a gut punch [which I always appreciate])
  • I don't think there's a more harrowingly beautiful scene in recent than that soldier singing Wayfaring Stranger in the woods. Pretty sure I held my breath the entire time.
  • I realize that a lot of war films are staunchly anti-war, but the way Colonel Mackenzie handles the orders that Schofield has risked everything for was a flawless summation of how f--ked up all of this is. We've spent two-plus hours living and dying with/for Scholfield and this f--king guy is basically like you've done shit, none of this will matter in the morning, and it would be great if you could immediately f--k off.
  • The ending was perfect.
  • And finally, I can't honestly fathom how they did this. Not in the least. As a visual experience, few films have ever left my overwhelmingly amazed. It may not sound like a compliment, but the entire production was distracting it was so f--king stellar.
  • That initial climb up the ladder was so f--king intense. Like, I didn't want them to go. At all.
  • F--k me, not only does Schofield cut his hand, what he does with it next? F--k. That.
  • Friends, that was the biggest jump of my entire film-going life. I know my body recoiled to the left. I'm not sure what my arms did. Those f--kers were on their own.
  • Oh, and then we're going to follow up that with a blind jump. I legit almost called for a time-out.
  • I haven't seen all the Best Picture films (screw you, I've got...three days), but no way is there a bigger villain than that f--king German pilot. I hate him 3000.
  • While I was a bit relieved that those dudes showed up to help Schofield, there was a part of me that was kind of pissed that they didn't give him a minute, you know?
  • They shoot the cows? The f--k?
  • It wasn't as big as the first incident, but there was definitely another moment that had my heart firmly entrenched in my throat. Let's just say it started at the bridge crossing...and then just kept getting worse.
  • How do you say, no, seriously...shut the f--k up in German? Because that kid was a proper asshole...
  • And finally, the whole river bit was almost too much to handle, if I'm being honest. Our guy jumps in the river, nearly drowns, heads over the falls, smashes into a rock, sees something beautiful moments before seeing the worst thing ever. They all float down there.
In a bit of a twist ending, I ended up flying across the country (and the Pacific) to spend some time with my dad after all. And as we've always done, after a few days together (and a few doctor appointments), of course we headed to the movies. 

Even though I had already seen it with my wife, I figured the old man would be thrilled with 1917

But then I started to think about what I was doing. My dad's heart is bad. Like, real bad. And I'm taking him to a movie with two HUGE scares in it. Holy shit...what if it kills him? 

So...I give him a heads up. Nothing too specific. Just a warning. And it turns out, according to my dad, he did almost die during the film.

Of boredom.


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your dad but I'm glad he pulled through and that you got to spend time with him. I suppose it's better to take him to this than say, Uncut Gems where I felt like *I* was going to die watching that.

    I like how you mentioned that this was a simple story told in the most technically complex way possible. That's the perfect description for this.

    1. Thanks, Brittani. It was pretty frickin' touch-and-go whether he was going to pull through, but by the time I made it out there...he was a lot better. I thought about trying to redeem 1917 (he thought it was awful) with Uncut Gems but once he heard Sandler...he was out.

      I'm still shocked this didn't win Best Picture. Not mad, just surprised. I thought, even as simple as it was a lock. What do I know...

  2. OMG what an ending to this post. Hahahaha. I'm so sorry, I really hope your Dad is feeling better soon but I laughed out loud at that last line.
    Ugh, you've summed up all my feelings about this movie and now I feel like I need to up my rating to 5/5. It was so good. That moment where Schofield is advised to make sure there are witnesses to the message blew me away!

    1. Ah, thank you - that's what I was going for! He's doing much better, health-wise, but his shitty movie attitude remains...well, shitty.

      Right? It makes total sense that someone in charge would be like, 'erp, never got the message, sent the troops in anyway - my bad' so I was stunned when they brought this to light.

      I'm cool with 5/5.

  3. I'm so glad to read your dad is doing better! But dude, between Matty and BvS and your dad and roll hardcore, my friend lol

    I watched this one at home which is the only reason why I didn't shat myself publicly. Not that I did at home but I came close, the movie was relatively mellow until then and I did not expect a jump scare at all

    1. I need you to know that I legit laughed out loud with your 'rolling hardcore' comment. I don't, at all...but I guess when I do. I F--KING DO. No lie, I imagined my Dad clutching his chest and us needing to call an ambulance during the rat scene. Instead, I think that a-hole fell asleep.

      In the theater, it was absolutely heart-stopping. I think Kim did pulled a triple-lutz in her seat.

  4. That was quite a ride. I'm glad your dad pulled through and is doing better, and I'm sorry he was so bored with 1917! I've heard the same from a lot of people I know who has seen it... while others marvel at its beauty. I hope your dad continues to heal and get better and maybe the next movie he sees will be better :D

    1. Thank you!!! He's such a jerk. He HATED Dunkirk so much, and when we were (slowly) walking to the car he was like, 'that other war movie was so much better.' I swear, you can't win with this dude.

      He might be headed out here one of these days, so my immediate goal will be movie redemption.

  5. Sorry to hear about your dad, hope he's doing better and I know it's not nice, but I did laugh at the fact that he almost died of boredom. Poor guy, I guess after a serious health scare anything could seem boring compared to real life dangers he faces.

    Sending lots of good thoughts on his way!

    PS: I loved 1917.. I would have loved to see this and Parasite spilt the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars but it is how it is.