journey's end

DIRECTOR: saul dibb (the duchess, suite francaise)
STARRING: asa butterfield, sam claflin, paul bettany, and stephen graham

 

REVIEWER: Emily carter

★★★★

Led by young officer Stanhope, whose mental health is rapidly disintegrating, a group of British soldiers await their fate in an Aisne dugout during the end of World War I.

At almost 100 years on from Armistice Day; film is still doing the important task of remembering a heart-breaking piece of history. And Journey's End is no exception. With it's timely release, it's set to be a poignant story for many.

 

Adapted from a 1928 play, and then a novel, Journey's End is set in the trenches near Saint -Quentin, Aisne in 1918, towards the end of the First World War. The majority of the story takes place in a dugout over just four days in March 1918.

 

We spend the story with the C Comapny, led by a dispirited and emotionally struggling Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin) and a kindly second lieutenant the team calls Uncle (Paul Bettany). A fresh lieutenant, Raleigh, requests to work under old friend, Stanhope just as the company moves in for their six days at the frontline. Instead he finds a jaded and war-weary leader completely disenchanted by the fight. And we soon discover why.

 

The C Company moves into the muddy trench only paces away from a German dugout. At this point, the world is four years deep into the war and we watch traumatised soldiers like Second Lieutenant Hibbert played by Tom Sturridge, along with fresh naivete from new arrival Raleigh (Asa Butterfield) and a humourous and long suffering cook in Private Mason played by the incomparable Toby Jones.

 

Rather than the fiery battles and secret plans, this particular war film was to me almost entirely character-driven - and I was not disappointed by the fact. It's a story showing us the moving reminder that war was men, families and lives all part of a monstrous machine of politics and strategy. The contrasting characters have such a short time period to work with, often with few lines of script and tiny amounts of screen time - yet they are completely unforgettable. Toby Jones is a master of such a character, portraying a dry and sarcastic humour I loved. And "Uncle" (Paul Bettany) is clearly loved and cherished with such a graceful handle on life that the men of the C Company cling to. And Sam Claflin is back on the big screen with Stanhope and he nails it. Tortured soul and all.

 

Not to mention spots of spectacular visuals amongst the long periods of trench-life - this is a beautiful film in more ways than one.

 

Journey's End brings us yet another heart-wrenching facet of wartime with an unbeatable cast of memorable characters. A must-watch for many this Armistice Day.

★★★★

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