Marking something as enormous as World War 1 is a daunting task. Peter Jackson has created the documentary film They Shall Not Grow Old which seeks to honour the poor souls who lost their lives in a century old conflict.
Journey’s End, a play written in 1928, has been turned into an excellent feature film.
Set in the trenches near Saint-Quentin, Aisne in 1918, towards the end of the First World War, Journey’s End gives a glimpse into the experiences of the officers of a British Army infantry company. The story plays out in the officers’ dugout over several days in late March 1918, the last few days before Operation Michael.
With the Western Front locked in a stalemate for a year, the British Troops are rostered at the front for 6 days at a time, as they await one final German advance.
The cast of Asa Butterfield, Toby Jones, Paul Bettany and Sam Claflin are superb, inhabiting these varied soldiers, all coping with the terror of war in different ways.
Claflin’s Captain Stanhope requires a bottle of whisky a day to keep him in the trench leading his men. Bettany’s Lieutenant Osborne fiddles with his pipe and darns his socks and insists the men refer to him as Uncle. Toby Jones’ Private Mason cooks up the best grub he can with cans of liver and apricots.
Into this quagmire of suffering and doom comes the bright eyed Second Lieutenant Raleigh (Butterfield) a young man whose sister is dating the Captain and is eager to join the action at the front.
The story, told over a period of less than a week unfolds in terrifying, claustrophobic fashion as the imminent attack inches ever closer.
Director Saul Dibb succinctly captures the sheer horror and futility of “The Great War”.
An Essential War Film. 4 Stars.