1917 Movie Review

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 6 months ago

I agree with John.  It’s a stunning cinematic experience.  Go see it. I’m not a movie-goer. I may see one every two or three years. But this one is worth it.


  1. On January 15, 2020 at 4:45 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    Just saw “1917” last weekend. For what they are worth, here are my observations.

    First, very glad to see a noted film-maker tackle the subject of the Great War. The last half-dozen years have marked centennial of that conflict, which began on 28 July 1914 and ended 11 November, 1918.

    Second, as a longtime historian specialized in military history, it is gratifying to see the effort put into assuring historical accuracy whenever possible, in terms of clothing and uniforms, equipment, behavior, speech patterns, and so on. It is also quite obvious that the production team went to great lengths to recreate the atmosphere on the western front, the horrors of trench warfare – the endless entrenchments and fortifications, the mud, the decaying corpses, the rats, the danger of no-man’s land, and so on.

    The film is definitely worth seeing, and has much to offer. However, having said that, it left me wanting more.

    First, the film shares a failing with its recent WWII counterpart “Dunkirk” – it fails to convey the sheer human scope of the subject.

    The surrounded beachhead near the Belgian-French border was a teeming sea of humanity in May-June of 1940, numbering some 400,000 souls packed into an area initially sixty miles deep and fifteen miles wide (May 26). Yet, much of the film consists of shots of empty or near-empty beach, or a crowded pier on a mostly-empty beach. The Dunkirk beachhead would have far-more-crowded, with small craft coming right onto the beach to pick up stranded soldiers and/or civilians.

    In the case of “1917,” only in one or two scenes does to manage to convey something of the masses of humanity facing each other across “No Man’s Land.” Otherwise, the viewer is left with the impression that far-fewer people were there than was actually the case.

    The film does get right the manner in which the trench line was echeloned or constructed in successive layers, but fails to convey the claustrophobia and overcrowding which were so often features of life at the front, and in the miles immediately behind it – on both sides of the line. Not just men fighting, but the endless supply trains and support required by the great armies.

    Second, the film hints at – but does not fully-explore – the horror of trench warfare. This may have been necessary to secure the film’s rating, which is understandable. But to neglect this, means not conveying how the war really was. As one historical account of the war put it, those men really were “Eye Deep in Hell.”

    Third, the film doesn’t really have an overarching plot of any substance. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but something was missing. Yes, there was the mission – to prevent the ill-fated attack – but the ending was strangely unsatisfying.

    Interested readers who wish to sample other worthwhile films about the Great War are encouraged to see the following:

    “The Lost Battalion” – (2001) The story of a cutoff and surrounded battalion of the 77th Infantry “The Statue of Liberty” Division, trapped behind German lines during the Meuse-Argonne offensive of 1918. The lead character, Major Charles Whittlesey, is played by Ricky Schroeder, who does a marvelous job in the role.

    “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1979) – Based upon the famous book by Erich Maria Remarque and the film of the same name from 1930, this retelling of the story casts Richard Thomas in the lead role of Paul Bäumer, and Ernest Borgnine as his sergeant, Stanislaus “Kat” Katzinsky. Thomas, best known as the wholesome eldest son John-Boy on “The Waltons” 1970s-1980s family TV drama, does a surprisingly strong turn as the German boy-soldier,and Borgnine -always the salty old pro – doesn’t disappoint. A core work for the film-based study of WWI.

    “Paths of Glory” (1957) – Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this film is considered one of the works of the canon about the Great War, and based upon the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb. Stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers accused of cowardice in the face of the enemy, mutiny, and desertion. Loosely based on the actual events in the French Army on the western front in 1917, the story follows Dax’ ultimately doomed attempt to save the lives of the accused conspirators, and moral duplicity and immorality of the French general staff.

    “Flyboys” – (2006) A highly-entertaining and well-done telling of the tale of the legendary 124th Escadrille de Chasse Nieuport 124, a.k.a. the Escadrille Lafayette, a group of American volunteer pilots who flew against the Central Powers starting in 1916. Commanded by French officers, the unit also had a few French-born flyers, including its top ace, Raoul Lufbery, a French-born American citizen who racked up sixteen air-to-air kills before being killed himself on 19 ay 1918. Known not just for their heroic exploits in the air, but their colorful life on the ground; the unit’s mascot was an adult lion named “Whiskey.”

  2. On January 15, 2020 at 6:41 pm, Wes said:

    It was a great movie and did not feel like it was 2 hours long.
    Wife even enjoyed it.

    See this review also


  3. On January 15, 2020 at 8:13 pm, JoeFour said:

    Thanks for the review and movie suggestions, Georgiaboy61! Much appreciated!

  4. On January 15, 2020 at 9:07 pm, Stryker said:

    Being a nattering nabob of negativism I was totally underwhelmed. The premise was farcical. There would certainly have been more effective means to deliver the message. A woman and a baby in no man’s land was only exceeded by negro Tommies in 1917.

  5. On January 16, 2020 at 1:05 am, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Stryker

    Re: “The premise was farcical. There would certainly have been more effective means to deliver the message.”

    Yes, quite so. Telegraph wires, if they weren’t cut – were one method. Don’t laugh – they were still used by both sides! – carrier pigeons were used to deliver messages. By mid-war, the more-enterprising and creative officers had figured out that aircraft were adept at flying low over the lines and dropping messages. Radios and telephones were in use, but the equipment was bulky, large and was unevenly distributed. Perhaps the most-rapid and secure means by which messages were sent, at least on the ground, was via motorcycle dispatch rider. They were limited to roads and trails, however, for the most part. Most armies were still horse-drawn in 1914 and mounted dispatch riders were used to deliver messages. There were automobiles and trucks, too, where the terrain was favorable for their use. Even obsolete means of messaging, such as signal flags and heliography, were still in use at times.

    One supposes it is possible that a woman and small child could have been trapped and stranded in the ruins of a town in no-man’s land, but it strains credulity that she would not have been discovered by one side or another. Moreover,in those days, old-time notions of chivalry still obtained such that such a woman and her baby would have been given safe passage away from the front and to a place of safety.

    Hollywood is notorious where war films are concerned, for inserting women into the plot somehow, even clumsily, just to get a bit of estrogen in with all of the men. That’s 21st century revisionist history for you: it isn’t valid unless there’s a woman in it!

    @ JoeFour

    You bet! Please share yours,whatever they may be.

  6. On January 16, 2020 at 1:12 am, Papa said:

    How “1917” was filmed to look like one shot.

  7. On January 16, 2020 at 3:39 pm, Fred said:

    They hated Christ 2000 years ago and they still hate Christ today. I don’t watch anything by them that cusses my God. I know, that’s wacist. It used to be a difficult life in America for those who hated God and lived repugnant to His commands, now it’s difficult for those who don’t. So be it. You can have their filth even if I’m the last man on earth who rejects it.

  8. On January 16, 2020 at 4:58 pm, Herschel Smith said:


    What on earth are you talking about?

  9. On January 16, 2020 at 8:24 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:

    @ Stryker

    Re:”A woman and a baby in no man’s land was only exceeded by negro Tommies in 1917.”

    As the Great War dragged onward past the mark when even the most-pessimistic observers thought it would have ended, and losses soured past the worst estimates, the various combatant nations started to call up personnel from their overseas colonial territories and possessions. First in small numbers, then in larger ones. This is the historical work-around the producers of the film can use to rationalize the presence of the various nationalities and races depicted in the film.

    Britain called up reserves from the Commonwealth nations, i.e., Canada, New Zealand and Australia, as well as South Africa, Egypt and India, as well as others. France called up North African soldiers from French Northwest Africa, i.e., modern-day Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Germany utilized soldiers from her East Africa colonies, i.e., modern-day Tanzania, portions of Burundi and Rwanda. Most of these were used in the war in Africa, where the brilliant German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck gave fits to the much-larger combined British-Indian-Belgian-Portuguese force pursuing him.

    Anyway, that’s a bit of the historical backdrop of that particular item in the film. I doubt the producers got too deep into the somewhat obscure history of colonial soldiers fighting in the war; they just put there what they thought belonged in the film.

  10. On January 16, 2020 at 8:34 pm, Fred said:

    There is mis-use of the name of Jesus in the movie. I don’t like that, I don’t pay for that. That’s all.

  11. On January 16, 2020 at 9:47 pm, Stryker said:

    Georgiaboy 61: your points are accurate and well presented. However, near the end of the film there were scenes with two obvious Negroes in English uniforms, in English formations. Given the times I find that quite implausible. I can certainly appreciate the Indian soldier shown earlier in the film. In fact the Brit butcher in chief (forget his name and too lazy to look up) felt that the manpower of the Empire would basically be used (sacrificed) to overwhelm the evil Huns.
    Good post, thanks.

  12. On January 17, 2020 at 12:53 pm, Georgiaboy61 said:


    Read you loud and clear; thanks for the reply.

    Re:”However, near the end of the film there were scenes with two obvious Negroes in English uniforms, in English formations. Given the times I find that quite implausible.”

    Yes, I agree. Actually, in any case – the French would have been more likely to have a black man in their military than the British.

    Re: “I can certainly appreciate the Indian soldier shown earlier in the film. In fact the Brit butcher in chief (forget his name and too lazy to look up) felt that the manpower of the Empire would basically be used (sacrificed) to overwhelm the evil Huns.”

    Are you referring to western front British CIC Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig? He commanded the BEF from late 1915 to the war’s end. He’s the fellow who sent wave-after-wave of troops over the top and into the mouths of German machine-guns and artillery, long after such frontal assaults had been shown to be suicidal-ineffective. And for all of this military brilliance – I am being sarcastic – he was promoted from general to field marshal and awarded a peerage. He is also the target of the British newspaper headline which called the British soldiers at the front, “Lions being led by asses”…

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