25 September 2023

Journey’s End

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Reviewed by Victor Rebikoff.

Director: Saul Dibb, Lionsgate, M 107 Minutes.

In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the Armistice on 11 November 2018 comes this disturbing and heart-breaking film on WW 1 from director Saul Dibb (‘The Duchess’) after adapting R C Sherriff’s 1928 classic stage play to the screen.

This tragic story is set in March 1918 where newly-assigned officer, Second-Lieutenant Raleigh (Asa Butterfield –‘Ender’s Game’) joins other British officers on France’s Western Front led by former school friend and the psychologically flawed, Captain Stanhope (Sam Clafin –‘Their Finest’).

On his arrival, Raleigh immediately realises that Stanhope is a changed man with a serious drinking problem and exhibiting irrational tendencies, especially a terrible temper in his treatment of officers Hibbert (Tom Sturridge –‘Remainder’) and Trotter (Stephen Graham –‘Funny Cow’).

Apart from the amiable cook, Mason (Toby Jones –‘Atomic Blonde’), there is the likeable Lieutenant Osborne (Paul Bettany –‘Transendence’) who befriends Raleigh as the unit takes its turn in the trenches before being ordered on a daylight raid behind enemy lines.

A key casualty of the raid is that of Osborne which has a profound impact on the unit’s remaining officers, not only on Raleigh but more so on the mentally disintegrating mind of Stanhope, over losing his closest confidante.

As the time approaches for Stanhope’s soldiers to start their attack, the Germans unleash their artillery accompanied by a succession of bombs that slaughter most of those stationed in the trenches.

Dibb’s realistic rendition of the horrors depicted in his WW1 film is at times difficult to watch as it dramatically reveals the utter futility of war made worse by a commanding officer (Captain Stanhope) who is clearly falling apart.

Furthermore, too much time is spent on the dreary dialogue amongst the officers during meal times in the HQ’s cramped conditions, in particular Stanhope’s addiction for his alcoholic drink intent on drowning his fears in whisky.

Dibb has assembled a reasonable cast for his anti-war movie, the most impressive portrayals being from Clafin and Butterfield with Bettany providing the best performance as they all await their fate in the tension-filled trenches.

Vic’s Verdict: 2 ½ Stars

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