1917

Saving Private Ryan started like a splatter movie, but 1917 is pure elevated horror while opening on a pastoral field towards the end of World War I. The high concept of one continuous tracking shot allows director Sam Mendes to perfectly pace this suspenseful tale of brave soldiers sent on a mission to save 1,600 men from a German ambush. Unfortunately, that comes to a crashing halt with a single gunshot aimed to the heart of the film. From there, 1917 takes a drastic detour into incoherence. The action suddenly moves to a hellish dreamscape that sacrifices all of the previous grueling realism. The good news is that Our Hero is now running through a video game where the Huns have been replaced with Star Wars stormtroopers. It seems the forces of the Galactic Empire have even worse aim when dealing with Earth’s gravity. That explains why things turned out so well for the Allies in the Second Battle of the Marne. 1917 never recovers from this big stumble, with the script succumbing to comic Wabook logic once Mother Nature plucks a man from danger and places him precisely at the most convenient point to end the running time at a brisk two hours. The dazzling cinematography never lets up, of course, but that’s a thin rationale for 1917 becoming a big year-end awards contender. It’ll be less embarrassing if Avengers: Endgame wins the Oscar for Best Picture.

[R]