1917 (2019) There’s something about war movies that feels so distant; the longer ago the war, the less real it seems. It’s hard to fill the shoes of someone who lived over a century ago in a world that looked vastly different from ours today. Yet through the narrow lens of 1917, director Sam Mendes has managed to not only bring viewers into the world of World War I, he’s brought them onto the battlefield. The major difference that allows 1917 to stand out from the countless films that cover wars spanning centuries—and millennia—lies in the cinematography of the film, a feat of accomplishment by famed cinematographer Roger Deakins. As the film appears to be one continuous shot that follows the two young lance corporals, played by George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman, the style in which the film is shot and edited fully envelops audiences into the environment of the war-torn men. In doing so, viewers get a first-hand account of the story as it unfolds in front of their eyes.
Ad Astra (2019) Science fiction film Ad Astra (2019), directed by James Gray, is a film following a seasoned astronaut as he discovers more about his presumed dead father who was lost in a space expedition long ago. As he learns more about his father, he realizes that he must venture out into space to find him and to attempt to stop a mysterious power surge threatening Earth and the solar system. The film aims to explore a father-son relationship in the context of space travel and the question of whether we are alone in the universe. The story opens with text onscreen informing us that it is the near future and that humanity has expanded into the stars in search of life. It then cuts to what can be perceived to be an interview or evaluation of the main character, Major Roy McBride, who speaks about his feelings and experiences. As his testimonial switches between dialogue and voiceover, visual exposition informs the audience of his background, including his relationship with his wife—briefly—and his current occupation. McBride is an astronaut who works on Earth’s “Space Needle” that broadcasts into the solar system in search for other intelligent life. His father, Clifford McBride, is currently believed to be dead after embarking on a deep space expedition to the edges of the solar system looking for signs of life. The two are estranged, as Clifford left for his expedition when Roy was sixteen, and all Roy has left of his father are his update transmissions from his ship.