I had the pleasure of seeing Sam Mendes’s 1917 in the 4DX theater at Opry Mills, and WOW what an experience. Let’s dive into the actual theater first, and then I’ll get into the movie.
The signage outside the theater reads like an amusement park ride. Rain? Wind? Ticklers? When you walk in, there are seats in groups of four, just as you’d see in a 4D thrill ride. While the seats are not as comfortable as theater recliners, the experience is well worth it. The seats have airholes in the headrest for bursts of air to rush by your head. The seat in front of you emits a mist during water scenes of the movie. Industrial size fans on the ceiling provide the wind, and fog machines in the front round out the atmosphere. The tops of the headrests every once in a while spray out a mist of smell, which is probably my favorite feature.
Following the movie previews, there was a special 4DX preview that showcased everything the theater had to offer. It showed a high-speed car chase; along with the aforementioned features, the seats pitched forward and side to side with the car’s every move. At the end was a crash, complete with a bumpy “landing,” a burning smell, and smoke filling the air. There were plenty of shrieks and squeals throughout the preview from the audience, as we were getting used to the set up of everything. Luckily the movie itself was not as jarring, so no squeals interrupted the story. The 4DX features provided lots of excitement, which would be great for a more “fun” movie. However, it did not lend itself very well to 1917. I highly suggest checking out the 4D screen, but maybe with something like Frozen 2 or Star Wars (the previous two films shown there).
This movie was an absolute beauty. When the preview first came out, it got a lot of play time alongside the Midway preview, however it is in a completely different league. While Midway was more of a typical blockbuster war movie, 1917 is a
m a s t e r p i e c e.
While the 4DX features did pull you into the action of the movie, it honestly didn’t really need the help. Sam Mendes filmed this in the “one-take” style, which puts the viewer right alongside the two main characters. Cuts between scenes are hardly noticeable; every so often, I found myself marveling at the genius it took to create such a thing. Mendes and his crew would follow the main characters across miles of movie sets, on golf carts or even boats at one point to make sure to create a seamless shot. They practiced the scenes without a camera for months, to ensure that the hundreds of actors knew their parts perfectly before attempting to film; they didn’t even start officially filming until April 2019. The camera follows two soldiers who travel to the front lines to relay a “halt battle” message to another unit. The soldiers run across fields, through blown up towns, float through rivers, and more. The movie makes you realize how difficult solders’ lives really were, and how many developments we have made in war and in society in general.
The beauty of this movie, besides its actual creation, is that it makes war tangible. It’s not just numbers of casualties on paper, or ribbons and medals won. It was thousands of humans who wanted desperately to survive and make it back home to their families. The two main boys are just that: only boys. They make silly jokes and act like teenage boys, they miss their mothers, and they daydream about old memories when they get scared. They are all of us– and would we carry their burden so gallantly if it was us in their shoes?
Without giving too much away, the movie is mesmerizing. You will feel pain and triumph along with the characters, and you will leave feeling satisfied. This is a lovely tribute to the “Great War,” which will hopefully ignite an interest in its often-forgotten history.
*If you want to read a little more about how 1917 was created, check out these links: