Journey’s End, is a harrowing film about a company of British soldiers that are stationed on the front line in France for 6 days during World War 1. This film is adapted from a play of the same name by R.C Sherriff, so the idea for this film has been around for a while. With the feature film itself being first announced at the British commemoration of WW1 back in 2014. Whilst the idea itself of soldiers on the front line waiting for an attack is fairly generic this film manages to capture all the emotions and the hopelessness the situation itself would bring. The film even in scenes where nothing much is happening, where there might just be a few lines of dialogue, has this overwhelming sense of dread and foreboding; as just like the soldiers themselves you are awaiting the German advance. What the director Saul Dibb achieves so effortlessly is this idea of contrast, this contrast is shown in many different forms throughout the film, eagerness vs hopelessness, naivety vs realism, the heroics and bravery vs the complete senseless loss of life. Through these contrasts the film explores a lot of themes in an intelligent way, not glorifying or overtly patriotic; but honest. The performances here are all standout with Sam Claflin’s Captain Stanhope, being a particular standout. Claflin’s character is haunted by the events he’s lead his company through and is quite noticeably an alcoholic. Stanhope as a character is completely 3 dimensional, as we see him fly through many different emotions such as paranoia, a real strong care for his men shown in quite a few compassionate scenes, as well as a very real sense of fear and doubt. Claflin handles all of these different emotions with complete ease, and never once did I view him as anything other than Captain Stanhope. Paul Bettany’s performance as Lieutenant Osborne is perhaps the heart of the film with him being the one who keeps everyone together and is a friend to both Claflin’s Stanhope and Butterfields Raleigh. Through Bettany’s performance, we see more of Stanhope flaws but we also see the trauma he’s been through to get them. My main criticism of the film, is the raid scene where Bettany’s character dies, during the scene which is one of the emotional peaks of the movie the cinematography is quite jerky and moves around very quickly, (perhaps this was a stylistic choice on the part of the director), which I personally found took me out of the moment and I didn’t quite understand what was going on. On the whole, the cinematography and both the diegetic and non-diegetic music manage to paint quite an outstanding picture of what life in the trenches was like. Butterfield’s performance as Captain Raleigh is rather one note, personally, I believe he was only used as a contrasting figure to the character to Stanhope so that Raleigh could represent what Stanhope has left behind and will never be again. I believe that this film is a great insight into WW1 and one that doesn’t stray away from the dark pointless nature of war, it covers all the issues surrounding war such as loss and trauma with a well-rounded perspective. The film is at its core a drama film, as there isn’t much action in it when compared to something like 12 Strong, the character interactions and the interpersonal drama is amazing and obviously a result of a well-honed script based off fantastic source material. Overall I think this is a must-see film, as it so accurately shows all facets of war, as well as focusing on the men behind it really taking its time to develop the characters. Whilst the film is let down by the cinematography in one sequence it doesn’t detract from the overall experience, and Claflin and Bettany are such commanding presences that you will never really notice the underused Butterfield.
Reviewed by Luke.