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Old 03-11-2020, 12:58 PM
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Rewatched 1917: discouraged at what passes for great movies these days


I watched a screener for 1917 a couple months back. I was distracted by the editing gimmick, and disappointed Hollywood/mainstream movies' continuing inability--refusal?--to make a big budget war movie that isn't pro-war propaganda. (Is this because of powers-that-be supporting the military industrial complex? or Hollywood commercialism's mandated happy endings?)

So I watched on the big screen yesterday.

The cinematography deserved its Oscar. The attention to detail was remarkable: even in the scene where the soldier is singing "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" acapella; he sang in a style appropriate to 1917. It always bothers me when modern singers in a period piece sing in today's received American Idol style: all melisma and blue notes, too much vibrato.

But the editing gimmick, beyond being distracting, served to make the movie structured like an FPS computer game. This really emphasized for me the movie's pro-war position: it's a video game, obstacles to overcome one at a time, intensifying toward the end, but then you win! it was all worth it! Yay!

I honestly don't think you can make an anti-war movie with a happy ending. A movie about war should leave you feeling defeated, not victorious. Hollywood's insistance on happy endings makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to produce a true anti-war film.

Spielberg is the biggest offender; he maintains his commitment to the happy ending, punctuated with small victories, even in his war movies. 1917 clearly owes a lot to SPR, including the ending, which leaves the audience feeling relieved, even satisfied, instead of disgusted with the suicidal bellicosity of the human race.

OK this got more meta than I intended. TLDR: 191--great production, disappointing themes.
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Old 03-11-2020, 01:25 PM
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Although the fake one-take-movie effect hinders the storytelling by compressing time and distance, the movie is just ridiculously good. There are almost no mistakes in a historical movie (which is tough), like, as I heard, that cow parsley isn't blooming at that time of the year. The acting is great, there is little combat, the scenery is fantastic.

There are enough rotting bodies and tragedy in the movie to not let on a high note. It's not a happy ending, it's a "less horribly shithole" ending.
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Old 03-11-2020, 01:33 PM
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I don't consider it having a happy ending. I didn't leave the theater with a warm heart anyway. YMMV.
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Old 03-11-2020, 01:35 PM
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It's a happy ending by Hollywood standards: the hero succeeds on his quest. If rotting bodies are all you need for an anti-war films, where does that put horror movies? Where rotting bodies are used less disingenuously for straight entertainment? The device of rotting bodies is to make the threat of the dragon seem more horrifying: a hero is exalted according to the greatness of his enemeies. The fact that in 1917 the Nazis are essentially faceless, absent from almost every frame of the movie, adds to their fantastical terribility: they might as well be dragons.
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Last edited by lissener; 03-11-2020 at 01:37 PM.
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Old 03-11-2020, 01:41 PM
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The fact that in 1917 the Nazis are essentially faceless...
Nazis in 1917, d'fuh?
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Old 03-11-2020, 01:46 PM
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Nazis in 1917, d'fuh?
I tried to edit that with "Huns" but it kept timing out
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Old 03-11-2020, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by lissener View Post
I was distracted by the editing gimmick
What "editing gimmick"?
Quote:
and disappointed Hollywood/mainstream movies' continuing inability--refusal?--to make a big budget war movie that isn't pro-war propaganda.
How in the hell is this "pro-war propaganda"?
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Old 03-11-2020, 01:56 PM
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I didn't love the movie. IMO, it was middle of the pack (at best) as far as Oscar nominated movies are concerned. Yeah, it deserved the Oscar for Cinematography, but I don't watch movies strictly for that. I enjoyed Parasite, Jo Jo Rabbit, Little Women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Joker more than 1917.
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Old 03-11-2020, 02:05 PM
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I didn't love the movie. IMO, it was middle of the pack (at best) as far as Oscar nominated movies are concerned. Yeah, it deserved the Oscar for Cinematography, but I don't watch movies strictly for that. I enjoyed Parasite, Jo Jo Rabbit, Little Women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Joker more than 1917.
Jojo Rabbit proves, to me at least, that satire and ridicule are more effective as anti-war statements than tales of heroism against long odds. The former points out the absurdity of human-on-human violence, while the latter ends up suggesting that the whole thing was worth it, because hero!
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Old 03-11-2020, 02:33 PM
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I'm not sure what kind of "unhappy ending" would satisfy you enough to turn into this great movie. He shows up, but too late, and everybody's dead? Then maybe is captured and hung? Would that make it a great movie?
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Old 03-11-2020, 02:49 PM
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Let's see:

1) Our hero is seriously wounded and is going to get a bad infection. If lucky, he'll just lose his hand.
2) His best friend dies just because he didn't want to let an enemy soldier burn to death.
3) He doesn't get there in time to stop the first wave, sending hundreds of men to death or injury
4) The commanding officer tells him that they'll probably just get an order to go attack a week later and to fuck off.
5) He has to tell his best friend's brother that he died.

Super mega happy ending.
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Old 03-11-2020, 02:56 PM
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What "editing gimmick"?
The movie appears to consist of two extremely long unbroken takes. Of course that would have been impossible. It was just edited/digitally manipulated to look that way.

I found the effect both astonishing and distracting. It gave the movie immense immediacy. But once you notice it and start marveling at what they are doing it pulls you away from what's going on. (At least, that's how it affected me.) In the end I felt that it was more of a stunt than something that was necessary for the storytelling.
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Old 03-11-2020, 02:59 PM
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FYI, due to past situations, I won't be responding to any sarcastic or hostile replies. Feel free to post them, but as far my participation, I will only debate with mutual respect and good faith. Otherwise please visit amongst yourselves.

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Old 03-11-2020, 03:14 PM
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The movie appears to consist of two extremely long unbroken takes. Of course that would have been impossible. It was just edited/digitally manipulated to look that way.

I found the effect both astonishing and distracting. It gave the movie immense immediacy. But once you notice it and start marveling at what they are doing it pulls you away from what's going on. (At least, that's how it affected me.) In the end I felt that it was more of a stunt than something that was necessary for the storytelling.
It's distracting. But then, I saw it in one of those 4D theaters (by mistake; not my mistake) so I was also being shaken about, squirted with air jets and sprayed with water. Pick your distraction.

To return to the OP - I broadly agree. It was an OK movie with one really good trick, but it's just a trick.

j

ETA: Well done sitting through it a second time - I don't think I would have bothered.

Last edited by Treppenwitz; 03-11-2020 at 03:15 PM.
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Old 03-11-2020, 03:25 PM
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The movie appears to consist of two extremely long unbroken takes. Of course that would have been impossible. It was just edited/digitally manipulated to look that way.

I found the effect both astonishing and distracting. It gave the movie immense immediacy. But once you notice it and start marveling at what they are doing it pulls you away from what's going on. (At least, that's how it affected me.) In the end I felt that it was more of a stunt than something that was necessary for the storytelling.
"Long unbroken takes" are how we experience life. I'm a big fan of the limited (first- or third-person) point of view in fiction, because it allows me to vicariously experience events as the main character experiences them; and this seemed like the cinematic equivalent of that, and I really enjoyed and appreciated it as such. It didn't strike me as a "stunt" any more than any way of telling a story (such as cutting from one scene to a completely different scene) is a "stunt."
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Old 03-11-2020, 04:06 PM
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Let's see:

1) Our hero is seriously wounded and is going to get a bad infection. If lucky, he'll just lose his hand.
2) His best friend dies just because he didn't want to let an enemy soldier burn to death.
3) He doesn't get there in time to stop the first wave, sending hundreds of men to death or injury
4) The commanding officer tells him that they'll probably just get an order to go attack a week later and to fuck off.
5) He has to tell his best friend's brother that he died.

Super mega happy ending.
Oh, let's not be sentimental. We can take this much further:

6) His best friend's brother, already near the edge, snaps and begins to attack the protagonist, and must be killed. The best friend's brother's wallet contains a picture of a dog. An old yellow dog.
7) The poor sod's brains splatter the protagonist, who wipes them off and then puts his hand on a nurse's white uniform, creating a visual metaphor sure to be picked up by all the cashiers who do cinema and are up to date on their war propaganda. Specifically, this piece. This also sets the protagonist up for a massive blood-borne infection.
8) The nurse, a proper woman and high-born, faints at the sight of such blood, braining herself on a loose entrenching tool. The protagonist is, naturally, arrested for court-martial for pushing the nurse to her doom.
9) As the protagonist waits to be hung, he sees a bird. This bird is amazingly beautiful. He starts to sketch the bird, which moves; he stands up to get a better look, and gets shot. In the crotch.
10) The protagonist is sent to a hospital in the rear, where he gets care from a nurse, who expresses rather little on the surface. His blood-borne infection acts up, and that's all that does. He rants about the leadership, leading to court-martial.
11) Once his crotch has been healed, he's transported back to the front, so he can face a firing squad. His last thoughts are only of his family, right before a German artillery barrage saves him by killing everyone lined up to shoot him. We spend ten minutes lingering on all of their remains.
12) The last hour of the film is the protagonist dying of thirst.

See? Perfectly sums up the horrors of war, and with such economy!
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Old 03-11-2020, 04:49 PM
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Oh, let's not be sentimental. We can take this much further:

. . . . .

See? Perfectly sums up the horrors of war, and with such economy!
What movie is this?
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Old 03-11-2020, 08:08 PM
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I haven't seen 1917 yet, but the whole "gets there too late, fails to stop hundreds of men from going to their deaths" sounds a lot like Gallipoli to me. That's one of the most anti-war war movies ever made, and it was brilliant.
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Old 03-11-2020, 08:30 PM
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What movie is this?
The film any anti-war polemic should aspire to be.

Also a whole flying circus going right over your head.
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Old 03-11-2020, 08:43 PM
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The film any anti-war polemic should aspire to be.

Also a whole flying circus going right over your head.
Ah of course. Derleth. I remember you now.
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Old 03-11-2020, 08:47 PM
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I haven't seen 1917 yet, but the whole "gets there too late, fails to stop hundreds of men from going to their deaths" sounds a lot like Gallipoli to me. That's one of the most anti-war war movies ever made, and it was brilliant.
I haven't seen that for decades. I don't remember the ending?
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Old 03-11-2020, 08:56 PM
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I haven't seen that for decades. I don't remember the ending?
Without giving away too much....

SPOILER:
The attack is cancelled, field phones are down, and the courier can't make it to the trenches in time to deliver the message. Slaughter ensues.
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Old 03-11-2020, 08:59 PM
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Without giving away too much....

SPOILER:
The attack is cancelled, field phones are down, and the courier can't make it to the trenches in time to deliver the message. Slaughter ensues.
What was the very last scene, before the credits rolled?
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Old 03-11-2020, 09:07 PM
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What was the very last scene, before the credits rolled?
SPOILER:
The main protagonist (a cross-country runner) taking machine-gun rounds in the chest. Freeze frame.
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Old 03-11-2020, 09:24 PM
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SPOILER:
The main protagonist (a cross-country runner) taking machine-gun rounds in the chest. Freeze frame.
Good example.

You'll notice I was talking about Hollywood films; there are many good foreign examples of true anti-war movies. The only American ones I can think of off the top of my head are all by Kubrick, who was the exception to many rules.
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Old 03-11-2020, 09:24 PM
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@enalzi
Agree 100%.

@ lissener
Couldn't disagree more, I actually found the movie to very anti-war.

The whole point of the movie (as executed by the single POV shot) was we are the grunts, we take orders, we don't question them. We only see and experience what they see and experience, absolutely nothing else. No conversations, no explanations, nothing. I thought the single take shot from their POV was a uniquely brilliant way to do this.

My takeaway was: as a grunt, you're there to be sacrificed for the greater good, "Ours is not to reason why...". That really made me think a lot about the horrors of war especially for the bottom level soldiers.

I also thought it was a sharp contrast to the Spielberg view, which had to justify to modern audiences "why" they had to save Private Ryan. No justification required in a real war.

After my son saw it he commented about how dumb he thought it was "why didn't they drop the message from the a plane?" (Similar to what others mentioned in the previous thread on this). I said, who knows? why does it matter? The grunt's missions are never justified to them, they'd never be told that. Maybe they didn't have planes, maybe they decided the grunts were more expendable than risking a machine. The point is, the grunts would never know. Just do what you're told. That's when it hit him, you don't question, you're not allowed to question. If you question, you're shot for insubordination. That's the horror this portrayed, when you're being sent off to probably die and no one even explains why.

That defence complete, I'd say it's not perfect, but I'd put it in the category of very good (but not great).
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Old 03-11-2020, 09:35 PM
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@ lissener
Couldn't disagree more, I actually found the movie to very anti-war.
.
.
.
That's all true. But where I disagree with your conclusion is that the final shot is of the conquering hero. Everything else you mention are obstacles to overcome, like in a videogame. And the greater the obstacles, the greater the hero is for overcoming them.

The final shot can change everything. Spielberg turned what could have been an anti-war film with just the final shot of the movie. With the waving flag, and the final scene with present-day Matt Damon, he reversed everything that came before it. The final scene essentially said, "War is hell--but damn it's worth it!"

1917 is not as egregious, but I think that a war movie that ends with a scene of relief and satisfaction renders all the violence that came before it as nothing but devices to magnify the enemy and to make the hero seem that much more heroic. Schofield is reduced to little more than the "Final Girl" in an 80s horror movie.
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Old 03-11-2020, 09:51 PM
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lissener, in your OP, you talk about "Hollywood/mainstream movies' continuing inability--refusal?--to make a big budget war movie that isn't pro-war propaganda". Really? Do you consider A Private War, They Shall Not Grow Old, Jo Jo Rabbit, A Hidden Life, Hacksaw Ridge, The Hurt Locker, War Horse, How I Live Now, Beasts of No Nation, The Zookeeper's Wife, Testament of War, and Free State of Jones to be pro-war propaganda?
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Old 03-11-2020, 10:27 PM
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"Long unbroken takes" are how we experience life.
We don't experience it in anything remotely like the long extended takes in this movie. We experience it from our own relatively narrow point of view, not from the often expansive views here. This was nothing like a realistic experience.
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Old 03-11-2020, 10:37 PM
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lissener, in your OP, you talk about "Hollywood/mainstream movies' continuing inability--refusal?--to make a big budget war movie that isn't pro-war propaganda". Really? Do you consider A Private War, They Shall Not Grow Old, Jo Jo Rabbit, A Hidden Life, Hacksaw Ridge, The Hurt Locker, War Horse, How I Live Now, Beasts of No Nation, The Zookeeper's Wife, Testament of War, and Free State of Jones to be pro-war propaganda?
Haven't seen:
A Private War
A Hidden Life
Beasts of no Nation
How I Live Now
The Zookeeper's Wife
Testament of War [Youth?]
[added to my list]

JoJo Rabbit:
Definitely anti-war (as acknowledged above); satire works better than Hollywood-style heroic dramas.

They Shall Not Grow Old:
Of course not pro war propaganda. That's part of what distinguishes it from the many Hollywood films I mentioned. I don't really include documentaries in my thinking here; maybe I should have mentioned that in my OP. Also, foreign production, as are most of the mentioned exceptions to my diatribe,

Hacksaw Ridge:
My memory is not clear, but I think of this as having a satisfying heroic ending. And you really can't get more pro-war than Mel Gibson!
.
.
.

I really must remember to note such things as "There are of course exceptions" in my posts; i don't do so by default because I assume that's a given.

My OP was about a general trend; a tradition even. Does pointing out exceptions really have much impact on the validity of the general trend? I don't want this to become a semantics battle of what movies "count" and which don't.

Is there a general disagreement to my description of the general trend? Which I lay squarely at the foot of the Hays code and the government's involvement with Hollywood during WWII.
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Old 03-12-2020, 12:12 AM
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The final shot can change everything. Spielberg turned what could have been an anti-war film with just the final shot of the movie. With the waving flag, and the final scene with present-day Matt Damon, he reversed everything that came before it. The final scene essentially said, "War is hell--but damn it's worth it!"
Defeating the Axis powers wasn't worth it?
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Old 03-12-2020, 01:32 AM
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O.K., there are the following films since 2010:

A Private War
A Hidden Life
Beasts of No Nation
How I Live Now
The Zookeeper's Wife
Testament of Youth
Jo Jo Rabbit
They Shall Not Grow Old
Hacksaw Ridge
1917

I consider them to not be pro-war films. Some of them could be considered anti-war films. You claim that these are just exceptions to your rule that big-budget Hollywood/mainstream movies recently are mostly pro-war. So give us some examples of the pro-war movies that you think are the general rule over the same time period.
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Old 03-12-2020, 06:36 AM
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Sorry, I just couldn't get past "Hollywood's pro-war propaganda" without busting out laughing. I mean, maybe Transformers movies? But any actual war movie I've seen from Hollywood has been decidedly anti-war.
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Old 03-15-2020, 11:05 AM
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I disagree strongly (to put it mildly) with the OP, but I'm not going to argue about it. I will point out that 1917 was NOT a "Hollywood" movie. It's British to its core. The writers, the director, and the actors are from the UK. To characterize it as "pro-war" is bad enough. To add insult to injury by saying it's a Hollywood movie is ridiculous.
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Old 03-15-2020, 11:54 AM
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Actually, what lissener talked about in the OP was Hollywood/mainstream movies. That's pretty vague. 1917 was funded by DreamWorks Pictures, Reliance Entertainment, New Republic Pictures, Mogambo, Neal Street Productions, and Amblin Partners. DreamWorks, New Republic, and Amblin are American. The others may all be British. The actors and crew are British. Most movies that do well in the U.S. are partly funded by American companies, regardless of where they are filmed, where they are set, who made them, and who acted in them. So I would say that 1917 was a mainstream movie, but it's such a vague term that it means very little.
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Old 03-21-2020, 02:41 PM
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@ lissener
Couldn't disagree more, I actually found the movie to very anti-war.

The whole point of the movie (as executed by the single POV shot) was we are the grunts, we take orders, we don't question them. We only see and experience what they see and experience, absolutely nothing else. No conversations, no explanations, nothing. I thought the single take shot from their POV was a uniquely brilliant way to do this.

My takeaway was: as a grunt, you're there to be sacrificed for the greater good, "Ours is not to reason why...". That really made me think a lot about the horrors of war especially for the bottom level soldiers.

I also thought it was a sharp contrast to the Spielberg view, which had to justify to modern audiences "why" they had to save Private Ryan. No justification required in a real war.

After my son saw it he commented about how dumb he thought it was "why didn't they drop the message from the a plane?" (Similar to what others mentioned in the previous thread on this). I said, who knows? why does it matter? The grunt's missions are never justified to them, they'd never be told that. Maybe they didn't have planes, maybe they decided the grunts were more expendable than risking a machine. The point is, the grunts would never know. Just do what you're told. That's when it hit him, you don't question, you're not allowed to question. If you question, you're shot for insubordination. That's the horror this portrayed, when you're being sent off to probably die and no one even explains why.

That defence complete, I'd say it's not perfect, but I'd put it in the category of very good (but not great).
That doesn't make the movie "anti-war." That is just life. At your job you have to do things which seem silly but you do them because your boss' boss' boss said to do them. And it turned out to be one hell of an important thing the main character did.

I thought the movie was simply amazing. I thought it dragged during the part with the French woman and her baby and that part really could have been completely cut out, but damn, I personally felt exhausted towards the end. I wanted to scream at the screen for someone to go get me goddamn Col. fucking MacKenzie's ass over here right fucking now! I wanted to pass out in bed for the main character.

But damn what a ride. Very historically accurate. The only thing that possibly took me out of it was how terrible that German sharpshooter in the belfry was. He had about five clean, easy shots that he missed, but our hero pulls off an offhanded shot at the large opening and gets a hit? And then he is so sure that he hit the German that he exposes his position across the open expanse of the street?

But again, the movie was so realistic, I was ready to feel the bullet. Also, although the Brits do speak English, they really need to get better at it. Found myself having to rewind to understand what they were saying sometimes.

All in all, one of the best movies I have seen in a while. 10/10.
  #37  
Old 03-21-2020, 03:07 PM
UltraVires is offline
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Originally Posted by GMANCANADA View Post
@ lissener
Couldn't disagree more, I actually found the movie to very anti-war.

The whole point of the movie (as executed by the single POV shot) was we are the grunts, we take orders, we don't question them. We only see and experience what they see and experience, absolutely nothing else. No conversations, no explanations, nothing. I thought the single take shot from their POV was a uniquely brilliant way to do this.

My takeaway was: as a grunt, you're there to be sacrificed for the greater good, "Ours is not to reason why...". That really made me think a lot about the horrors of war especially for the bottom level soldiers.

I also thought it was a sharp contrast to the Spielberg view, which had to justify to modern audiences "why" they had to save Private Ryan. No justification required in a real war.

After my son saw it he commented about how dumb he thought it was "why didn't they drop the message from the a plane?" (Similar to what others mentioned in the previous thread on this). I said, who knows? why does it matter? The grunt's missions are never justified to them, they'd never be told that. Maybe they didn't have planes, maybe they decided the grunts were more expendable than risking a machine. The point is, the grunts would never know. Just do what you're told. That's when it hit him, you don't question, you're not allowed to question. If you question, you're shot for insubordination. That's the horror this portrayed, when you're being sent off to probably die and no one even explains why.

That defence complete, I'd say it's not perfect, but I'd put it in the category of very good (but not great).
That doesn't make the movie "anti-war." That is just life. At your job you have to do things which seem silly but you do them because your boss' boss' boss said to do them. And it turned out to be one hell of an important thing the main character did.

I thought the movie was simply amazing. I thought it dragged during the part with the French woman and her baby and that part really could have been completely cut out, but damn, I personally felt exhausted towards the end. I wanted to scream at the screen for someone to go get me goddamn Col. fucking MacKenzie's ass over here right fucking now! I wanted to pass out in bed for the main character.

But damn what a ride. Very historically accurate. The only thing that possibly took me out of it was how terrible that German sharpshooter in the belfry was. He had about five clean, easy shots that he missed, but our hero pulls off an offhanded shot at the large opening and gets a hit? And then he is so sure that he hit the German that he exposes his position across the open expanse of the street?

But again, the movie was so realistic, I was ready to feel the bullet. Also, although the Brits do speak English, they really need to get better at it. Found myself having to rewind to understand what they were saying sometimes.

All in all, one of the best movies I have seen in a while. 10/10.
  #38  
Old 03-21-2020, 03:24 PM
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The end of Saving Private Ryan showed an old man who's still broken from the war. I don't think he was crying over the loss of his friend or the tragedy of his passing. I saw an old man who still falls to his knees crying if he thinks too much about what happened. Strong antiwar message, IMO.
  #39  
Old 03-21-2020, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by UltraVires View Post
The only thing that possibly took me out of it was how terrible that German sharpshooter in the belfry was. He had about five clean, easy shots that he missed, but our hero pulls off an offhanded shot at the large opening and gets a hit?
I did wonder about that, too. An example of what TVTropes calls Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy? Yet, as that page notes, "by far most shots fired in firefights or combat are misses. Some sources report that in WWII, the average soldier needed to fire two hundred rounds for every hit scored on an enemy."
  #40  
Old 03-21-2020, 05:06 PM
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I did wonder about that, too. An example of what TVTropes calls Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy? Yet, as that page notes, "by far most shots fired in firefights or combat are misses. Some sources report that in WWII, the average soldier needed to fire two hundred rounds for every hit scored on an enemy."
Well, this was certainly "combat" but not how you normally think of it. This German had a rifle from a perch, in an elevated position, something to set the barrel on, with an unsuspecting target from about 100 or so yards away. Take any kid who has been hunting a few times and give him that shot and it would be painfully easy, almost murder instead of combat.
  #41  
Old 03-21-2020, 05:09 PM
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This is a great film. I encourage everyone to see it.
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