Review: ‘Journey’s End’, A View Into The Trenches Of WWI

Without having lived through it, war is an almost impossible
thing to imagine. Even harder, is trying to imagine what war was like in the
early 1900s. Journey’s End attempts to
take the audience there, into one of the trenches, during March of 1918. The
film follows the lives of English soldiers who are on the front lines in
France, waiting for that moment when the Germans are going to attack. World War
I is into its fourth year with the English and Germans holding positions in the
trenches of Northern France. Each English company of soldiers serve in the
trenches six consecutive days of each month. There are rumors that the Germans
are mobilizing and planning an attack, but the question is, which company will
be the unlucky ones to be on the front lines when that attack finally comes?

Raleigh (Asa Butterfield), is a young officer who has just
finished training. He is excited about his first assignment – he has not seen
the horrors of war and cannot truly contemplate what he is signing up for.
Raleigh’s only desire is to serve in the same company as his old school house
monitor, Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin). Not only is Stanhope Raleigh’s old
school house monitor, he is also the love of Raleigh’s older sister Margaret
(Rose Reade). Raleigh is a powerful General’s nephew and, ignoring his uncle’s
warnings, convinces the General to pull some strings to get Raleigh assigned to
Stanhope’s company. Unfortunately, war has changed Stanhope and Raleigh will
soon see this first hand. Stanhope is now a drunk, using alcohol as a crutch to
try and deal with everything that he has lived through during the war. Raleigh
builds a bond with a different officer, Osborne (Paul Bettany) – who takes
Raleigh under his wing. In addition to Osborne, Raleigh spends time getting to know the other officers in the company – Trotter (Stephen Graham) and Hibbert (Tom Sturridge) – as well as the company’s cook Mason (Toby Jones). Some of these men have been affected by the war more than others, and Raleigh gets a look at how these different men have been coping with what they have all gone through. None of them seem as affected as Stanhope… yet despite all of the anger and alcoholism from him,
Raleigh still views him as the finest officer in the whole battalion, who just
happens to be tired from all of the responsibilities placed upon him.

Journey’s End
focuses on the mental side of war. Writer Simon Reade, who wrote the screenplay
based on the play by R.C. Sherriff, creates a tense environment and shows the
negative effects of war through the character’s dialogue and actions rather
than through graphically violent war scenes. Director Saul Dibb does a
masterful job shooting the film, primarily in the close quarters found within
the trenches. His shots cause the audience to get a glimpse of the feeling of
claustrophobia that the soldiers felt within the trenches. We see the soldiers
mentally and physically cracking under the threat of impending doom, the fear
that at any moment they would be thrown into a firefight against a seemingly
unbeatable foe. All around them is death and destruction. The vegetation that
surrounds them is dead from poisonous gasses being used and they must always remain
crouched when outside the bunker – to avoid the risk of an enemy sniper
shooting anyone that absentmindedly lifts their head high enough. Journey’s End is full of strong
performances from its lead actors and successfully transports the audience into
a war torn atmosphere. For those seeking a war movie without too much blood and
gore, this film hits the mark. However Journey’s
End
has enough strong dialogue and acting to keep even those that are more
visually oriented entertained as well.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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