Jude Law, in one of the best performances of his career, says that he is weary of war and the way fools get sent off to it with a flag and a lie. The line is uttered in Cold Mountain, a decent movie that I somehow keep remembering. Maybe because of that quote.
What compels me is not that 1917 is a bravura feat of filmmaking, or how entirely suspenseful and engaging it is. What compels me is how it understands how the dead are the only who ever get to see an end to war. Our protagonist runs, jumps and hides. The people he meets along the way wish him luck before they too must carry on with their mission. Too often war movies make it a point to say “this was the most important battle of the war”, or something along those lines. Like what we are seeing was vital for the course of history.
1917 has no such pretenses. It just presents a soldier’s journey from point A to point B, and how he’ll have to do it all over again the next day, and the next day. It elucidates the futility of combat, and shines a light on what a sorry species we are.