1917 (movie review)

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During World War I, two British soldiers — Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake — receive seemingly impossible orders. 
In a race against time, they must cross over into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow comrades — including Blake’s own brother.
The War-to-end-all-Wars has been going on for three years. One year previously, in July-November 1916, there were one million casualties at the Battle of the Somme. The British lost 57,000 on the first day of the offensive.
Total Casualties topped 1 million, including the deaths of more than 300,000. British troops sustained 420,000 casualties—including 125,000 deaths—during the Battle of the Somme. The casualties also included 200,000 French troops and 500,000 German soldiers.
And in 1917, that is history, as the war continues to drag on. The original British Expeditionary Force (BEF) of six divisions and the Cavalry Division, had lost most of the army’s pre-war regular soldiers in the battles of 1914 and 1915. In 1917, the bulk of the army was made up of volunteers of the Territorial Force and Lord Kitchener‘s New Army. Rapid expansion created many vacancies for senior commands and specialist functions, which led to many appointments of retired officers and inexperienced newcomers. Staggering losses by the French at Verdun and by the British, who tried to relieve pressure on the French during the Somme offensive meant that by 1917, things were very thin.
During trench warfare, the trenches changed hands as they were captured by bayonet charges through wire into machine gun fire and carefully ranged modern artillery. In some cases, corpses of the dead were fifty feed deep, encased in mud.
The uniforms, and militaria of the movie were spot on. I could not have wanted for better. The back story could have been expanded on and possibly ten or fifteen minutes toward (but not at) the end might have been cut. But that’s me being picky.
I think that it’s a movie worth seeing. (more clips)

You can’t tell the story of World War One because you can’t put the smell in the movie. But you can try and tell a version of the story.

19 thoughts on “1917 (movie review)

  1. My Grandfather was RAAC/RAF and one of his brothers was BEF. They crossed paths at the Somme. Fortunately they both lived into their nineties and had large families afterwards.

  2. "You can't tell the story of World War One because you can't put the smell in the movie." Thank goodness, the theater would have to provide vomit bags, similar to those on passenger aircraft, if there were the smell of WWI in the movie. It would also keep people away in droves.

    Thanks for the post.
    Paul L. Quandt

  3. There's a saying that "the only thing new in the world is the history you've never learned" (or something close to that). I've learned more about WWI in the past 10 years than I learned in the first 55. It's absolutely stunning.

    It's a safe summary to say the West never recovered from WWI.

  4. People are critical of the performance of French Troops in WW2, but WW1 left a lasting scar on that nation and you're right. It's still there today. The same was true of Britain and Russia. The Germans bounced back better than the allies, primarily because "they were German".

    It was a war of horror on a Biblical scale.

    One criticism of the film was that none of the soldiers was carrying a gas mask/gas mask bag. By 1917, they were general issue along the front. And while they were helpful, blistering agents such as mustard gas would get you whether you had a mask or not.

  5. The DLC officers will definitely not be going over the top to crawl through barbed wire and impact craters armed with only swagger sticks and whistles anytime soon.

  6. In 1965 a group of us soldiers stationed in Germany toured one battlefield. May have been imagination but you could still smell something rotten.

    Same smell around Falaise pocket when we toured that area.

  7. American soldiers under General of the Armies John Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), arrived at the rate of 10,000 men a day on the Western Front in the summer of 1918. During the war the U.S. mobilized over 4 million military personnel and suffered 110,000 deaths, including around 45,000 who died due to the 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak (30,000 before they even reached France).

    The US troops provided a freshness to the war that threatened to be continued so long as Germany continued and German had become as war weary as the rest of the combatants.

    In many places along the front (by 1917) the Germans and the allies had agreements to try not to kill each other and notified the opposition of coming artillery barrages. It disturbed the high command on both sides. You couldn't have much of a war if the soldiers didn't want to kill each other.

  8. The vomit bags would ad verisimilitude to the smell-vision movie experience – win-win!

    I don't think a movie experience can really impart the depth of despair, either, or the vast scale. There are still parts of France you can't go into because of the quantities of unexploded WW I ordnance in the ground.


  9. Went to the WWI museum in Kansas City – you could easily spend all day there. After we left, my thought was that the only thing missing was the smell. They'd have to put that in an isolated room with lots of warning signs.

  10. It's difficult to conceive of the horror of life in the trenches during WW1. A lot of soldiers went crazy. They called it "shell shock". Today we call it "PTSD". It's real and it's horrible and it breaks a lot of people. And in many cases, the government covered it up or minimized it to save face. However, today, it's my opinion that they are working to try and address these issues with veterans. I'm not saying that it can be fixed. But I think that they're giving it an honest effort.

  11. There are a lot of areas in Eastern Europe, Cambodia, etc. where there are still civilian casualties as a result of unexploded ordinance. There's also the degaussing range on the western coast of Kuai where there used to be a lot of unexploded ordnance. As I understand it, that area is now safe, but WW2 ended in 1945 and it took a long time to get it cleaned up.

  12. Book recommendation–


    Likely many here already have a copy.

  13. I liked it. It was a good movie.
    Lord of the Rings like at times..
    Oversold though.
    It's no Private Ryan.

  14. WWI brought about a lot of moral decay in the West.
    Questions about a God who could let that happen.
    Lack of husband/father material after the war…

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