Review: Journey's End

Journey's End
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PLOT: Towards the end of the First World War, an infantry unit of British soldiers are sent to occupy a trench on the front lines. Into their ranks comes a young, naïve second lieutenant (Asa Butterfield), whose sister back home is engaged to the unit’s hard-bitten captain (Sam Claflin).

REVIEW: One of the good things about WONDER WOMAN is that it somewhat reignited audience interest in The Great War, which is often overlooked in favor of WW2, but has a lot of cinematic potential. WWI trench warfare was a scary thing, and Saul Dibbs’s JOURNEY’S END, an adaptation of the R. C. Sherriff play, does a good job evoking its utter hopelessness, even if the much older ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and PATHS OF GLORY still stand as arguably the top depictions of this type of combat.

A slow, character-driven piece as opposed to an all-out war film, a fine British cast headlines this sensitive drama, which depicts not only the brutality of the war but also the tortuous waiting that went on at the front lines. It chronicles six days at the front, with Sam Claflin’s Captain Stanhope arriving with his men to discover they’re undersupplied, under-manned, and basically intended as cannon fodder.

Worn out to the point that the twenty something captain is unrecognizable as the public school cricket hero he once was, Claflin’s got a great part as the war-weary, fatalistic captain. When Butterfield’s new recruit shows up hoping to be reunited with his school hero (and his sister’s fiancée), he’s shocked to discover he’s turned into an alcoholic wastrel, but his own time comes soon enough. Like other depictions of the madness of WWI, including my personal favorite, THE DAWN PATROL (one of Errol Flynn’s best), this shows that young men, if they don’t die on the front line, don’t hold onto their ideals for long, and while Claflin is arguably the star, the horror mostly unfolds through Butterfield’s eyes, and he’s excellent.

JOURNEY’S END also gives Paul Bettany a nice part as the unit’s older second-in-command. Nearing middle-age, the men affectionately call him uncle, with him an ex-schoolmaster that tries to get the men through the day, while also acting as a buffer to the tougher Stanhope, who’s ready to blow a subordinate’s brains out when he believes he’s faking an injury. Toby Jones, in his fifties, seems a little long-in-the-tooth to be playing a private, being the company cook, although he’s good as usual, as is “Boardwalk Empire’s” Stephen Graham as one of the more experienced officers.

While JOURNEY’S END might be a little too slow to really break out in a big way, it’s still a compelling, well-filmed WWI yarn, and a good rendition of the classic story, which apparently provided the basis not only for other film adaptations, but several loose ones as well. If you’re a fan of the genre, this is a well-crafted addition to the canon, albeit one that’s on the artier more sophisticated side.

Source: JoBlo.com



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