Last night at 9:45pm, I had a chance to watch 1917 in true IMAX at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. It was the final IMAX screening of the film in the city, and I’m a bit sad that more people aren’t able to experience it in this format. Alas, its run got abridged by Rise of Skywalker on one end and Birds of Prey on the other.
This was my third time watching the film, but my first in IMAX. In this format, I was able to fully appreciate the meticulous details within. The background work is incredible. As the leads walk through the trenches, we see literally hundreds of soldiers alongside them, each playing out their own mini-narrative. They are sleeping, eating, washing clothes, smoking, praying. You appreciate these details more when the screen is five stories tall.
You also can see how much goddamn work went into these sets. There are decaying horse carcasses and rusty nails and bloated cadavers and worn out bunk beds and you can take them all in and marvel at the artistry.
I know there are a lot of people down on this film but I still think it’s a masterpiece. It’s interesting to me how people have reacted differently to the film’s one-shot technique. While some (like me) find it immersive, others think it puts the viewer at a distance to the action. The videogame-like structure to the film makes people feel like it’s a heartless simulacra of war, as opposed to a heartfelt tribute to its heroes. It sometimes seems like people would prefer a Spielbergian Saving Private Ryan-esque shaky cam to fully convey the horrors of war, but I believe that different techniques can bring to light different elements of the experiences depicted. As is obvious, though, your mileage may vary.
The only thing that continues to grate on me about this movie are all the cameos by famous people. An alternate version of this movie in my mind would have been populated by complete unknowns. This way when the characters are introduced, there’s not a big party that goes off in your head, screaming “HEY IT’S MARK STRONG! SHERLOCK AND MORIARTY ARE BOTH HERE! ROBB STARK IS MY BOY!”
It’s possible this movie will get limited runs in the future as part of a “Best Picture Winner” series. If you have the chance to see it in IMAX, I’d urge you to make the effort. It’s worth it.