Dir.: Saul Dibb | Cast: Sam Claflin, Paul Bettany, Asa Butterfield, Toby Jones | UK | 107′
Saul Dibb (Suite Francaise) make great use of Simon Reade’s taut script to depict this gloomy chronicle of the last knockings of the First World War, set in a dugout at Aisne Northern France, over a four-day period in March 1918.
Based on the seminal 1930 play of the same name by RC Sheriff and Norman Bartlett, JOURNEY’S END is unrelentingly harrowing. Sam Claflin plays Captain Stanhope, who is slowly losing his mind and dependent on alcohol, but to everyone else he is a hero. The unit is held together by his second-in-command, Osborne (Bettany), a former schoolteacher, who is gentle and understanding, but somehow longs for his own death. Fresh from the training academy, Lieutenant Raleigh (Butterfield) uses his uncle, a general, to be posted in Stanhope’s battalion, because he admires Stanhope, with whom he went to public school. Stanhope, who had a scholarship, was introduced by Raleigh to his sister – but the Captain has not visited the woman waiting for him, because he knows about his state of mind. A German offensive is likely to start in a few days and Raleigh and Osborne are send out with the men to capture a German who will confirm the exact date of the planned attack. This bloody undertaking is only the curtain-raiser for the real slaughter during the German bombardment, which led to them gaining a few hundred yards. There are fine performances, among them Toby Jones as the cook, trying to please everybody so he can stay out of the trenches. DoP Laurie Rose (High Rise) captures the wretched cage behind the wire where the men wait for their death. There have been many war films over the past century which try to commemorating the mass slaughter with ultra-realism picturing those horrifying days. Remembrance is necessary, and every single record of the conflict offers another opportunity for us to recall the bitter events that finally united Europe. AS
BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2017 | 4-15 OCTOBER 2017