*** Sam Mendes' eighth feature film is a World War I epic based on stories that the Academy Award-winning director's grandfather used to tell him. 1917 is notable not only for its technical complexity, but also the inspired casting choices. The plot focuses on two young British soldiers, played by relative newcomers Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay, who are charged with getting a message to their mates across the no man's land separating them from the Germans. Mendes wisely sought out the legendary Roger Deakins as cinematographer for this ambitiously filmed project that effectively stitches together a series of long takes, making it appear as though the action was captured in one continuous shot. One scene in a bombed-out city illuminated only by flares will make your hair stand on end, and it's as good as anything in Deakins' storied career. Chapman and MacKay's fresh-faced turns are accentuated by Fleabag's "hot priest," Andrew Scott (who steals every second he's on screen) and Richard "Robb Stark" Madden (in a brief, but essential role). Creatively conceived and beautifully executed, 1917 is an affecting and tense entry in the pantheon of war movies. R. DONOVAN FARLEY. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Cinema 21, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One.
A Hidden Life
**** A Hidden Life is a passion project about the subject of passion. The time is 1943. The place is Austria. And the hero, who later becomes a saint, is Franz (August Diehl). He is the only member of his farming village who isn't loyal to Adolf Hitler, and is also ostracized for his Catholic faith. It can be hard to watch Franz being torn away from his loving family (Valerie Pachner plays his wife, Fani), but if you have faith in writer-director Terrence Malick's vision, you'll eventually be rewarded with imagery that has the power to move mountains, and experience a spiritual grandiosity that pours over you like a waterfall. These moments feel like cherished memories: a baby's hand caressing her father's face; Franz and his wife dancing in green pastures; the trees swaying in the wind. The questions being asked are as important as the atmosphere: How can God let bad things happen to good people? How can one man's act of courage change the course of history? Malick has asked these questions before in his wartime masterpiece The Thin Red Line, and they work just as well with Franz, who is willing to go to the stake for his beliefs. PG-13. ASHER LUBERTO. Bridgeport, Fox Tower.