There are not that many WWI films these days. This film has also earned very good reviews but this is one of the rare times that I will dissent from the majority.
Synopsis: Set over 4 days in March 1918 in the trenches on the front line, a small group of soldiers wait to be bombarded by enemy artillery and certain death. The story charts the tension and claustrophobia of the officers’ dug-out as new recruit, 18 year old Lieutenant Raleigh joins the Company commanded by 20 year old Captain Stanhope, his former childhood friend and hero, who has changed almost beyond recognition. (levelFilm)
Starring: Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, and Paul Bettany
Writer: Simon Reade
Director: Saul Dibb
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 107mins
For showtimes and more, check out Journey’s End on movietimes.com.
Firstly, those expecting a straightforward war film will be greatly disappointed. This film served as the fifth film adaptation of a play of the same name and this was easy to see while watching as it feels exactly like a play with its limited environments and dialog heavy scenes. This means that the film will not be for everybody but it’s still worth a chance for anyone who happens to be a WWI buff.
The story was about a group of British soldiers living in the trenches on the front line in France during WWI. There were a few characters, however, the only one that really mattered was their captain, Captain Stanhope (Claflin) because he was the most developed though not by much. Joining Stanhope was his childhood friend, the inexperienced Second Lieutenant Raleigh (Butterfield). However, their relationship didn’t matter all that much either.
The film was supposed to be about how the soldiers’ time in the trenches was long and arduous, however, the film failed to communicate this. Instead, it focused on Stanhope and his struggle with the pressure and responsibility for being a captain. Suffice it to say that Stanhope was not the person Raleigh remembered as he would now turn to alcohol to cope with his struggles. The problem with this is that the lack of character development makes all of it come out of nowhere thus making it difficult to buy into.
Another problem with the film was that it takes a long time for anything to happen which could make what is a short film seem even longer. Almost nothing happened during the first 2/3 of the film as the soldiers spend most of their time waiting for an attack to happen and once it did, it was rushed and done too quickly. Ultimately, all the buildup and the actual attack underwhelmed. Also, while not necessarily the film’s fault, its 14A/R rating is a little misleading as the content did not justify that rating.
The best part of the film was the acting as it kept it compelling to watch in spite of the lackluster story and slow pacing. Beit miscasting or the script but Claflin was still good despite not quite being believable as the brooding Stanhope. Butterfield was also good as the inexperienced Raleigh who experiences a believable change once faced with the realities of war. Bettany was good as well the calming Lieutenant Osborne
Overall, this was a well-acted but slow war film whose play structure will surely test viewers’ patience by taking a long time for things to happen and giving us no emotional stakes or characters worth caring about. WWI buffs will surely find something to enjoy here but the rest will be left bored.