Of course, you’re supposed to like this film. Our brave boys, heroes led by donkeys, the misery of the trenches, The Battle of the Somme and all those other things. This is those and a long walk rolled into one two hour movie.
However, here’s the thing – this movie and the way it has been received, sits for me on the pre-built foundations and emotional labour of a fair few GCSE history teachers and other war movies when you strip that away you’re not left with much.
The story, true it may be, feels like a lazy Saving Private Ryan prequel. But then, the ‘tragedy’ that might unfold should they not reach their goal seems at odds with the wide narrative of this war. 1600 men might die, well, I guess, but 57,000 died on the first day of The Battle of the Somme so 1600, even if one of those is a brother of one of your men seems, well, forgive me, not a lot.
It’s not a bad film, by any stretch and there are some good action sequences, but then there are scenes that seemed so at odds with the overall that they brought me fully out of France and back to the slightly worn non-VIP seat at the Halifax Vue. The baby scene, for example, WTFBBQ? as the youth might say, the youth in the cinema were texting at this point in the movie so they could well have been asking this very question. What an utterly unnecessary and pointless waste of five minutes. Not a clue why any of that needed to be done – maybe it was truly what happened, but like an aside in a long story about your holiday to Greece that includes an uncle who once also visited the same place as you completely by coincidence, it had no bearing on the story. I also didn’t much care for the next scene where seemingly every Gemman with a rifle is the world’s worst shot. I mean, yeah, the drunk guy, but all the others missed? Hmm.
The circus end piece with our hero breaking in to deliver his orders was very Blackadder Goes Forth, but I’m not sure it was supposed to be. I think it was to be taken seriously. When Eggs Benedict delivers his “ahh well, we’ll all be dead tomorrow or the day after” speech, it feels glib and not at all like the actual truth of the matter. Yes, Colin Firth has decided to do the right thing, but we all know that those fellas coming back down into the trenches face certain death anyway. Life wasn’t saved death was merely postponed.
Film looks marvellous, sounds lovely, is a story about which one can draw no new conclusions – these were heroes lead by
donkeys politicians, 1917 receives an inoffensively bland rating from me. Make of that what you wish.