War, bloody war.
We will never escape the horrors of wars. After all, there are still rampant battles slaughtering populations and gutting civilisations. Wars are brutal and unforgiving, often at the expense of tours and tours of young people, pledging their lives to their country to defend it. It’s sad that we are still seeing warfare across the world, especially because we had two massive World Wars that we use as teaching tools for future generations.
There have been countless amounts of films, television series, stage-shows, books, poetry, and art trying to showcase the horrors of battle. Out this week, Saul Dibb’s latest film Journey’s End is added to the list.
Adapted from a play by J.C. Sheriff, Journey’s End revolves around the First World War and a group of soldiers waiting in a dugout in Aisne. Having to suffer through harsh conditions, constant onslaught from the German opposition, and low morale, the battalion are on their last legs and desperate. It doesn’t help that they are lead by Captain Stainhope, who’s wavering mental state has led him to find comfort in the limited alcohol supplies. When young officer Raleigh, an old friend of Stainhope arrives, the fresh-faced boy is shocked to see true hardships of the war…
Starring Paul Bettany, Asa Butterfield, Toby Jones, and Stephen Graham, Dibb’s suffocating and claustrophobic film is led by some of the best British talent. Each have their hand at playing officers or soldiers on the edge of horrors and death. Admirably, the cast rally together for often tense and highly-emotional scenes. No one really puts a foot wrong here and it’s brilliant to see them all flourish in such a great manner.
That being said, Journey’s End is really Sam Claflin’s film and, honestly, if BAFTA Members had seen this film before the voting and not giving him the nomination he truly rightly deserves then it’s a crying shame. Claflin has proven time and time again that he is an actor with weight. Inhibiting varying and different roles, including hefty darker ones such as Stainhope, Claflin showcases an immersive talent that really inhibits the roles that he is playing. As Stainhope, he is a man with enormous responsibility that becomes progressively twisted and rotten due to the countless deaths of his men. This is a man who has seen horrors and attempts to wash them away with alcohol. Claflin layers him with fear, sorrow, and anger that filters through ever seen he is in. Curt and brutish with a somewhat kindness underneath, Claflin commands the screen with his indelible performance.
Dibb’s work here is an intense one; the production design showcases the harsh conditions that thousands of men had to contend with. The story presents interesting views on heirarchy, especially with Butterfield coming in as a higher ranking soldier despite his lack of experience or age. There is definitely a class issue here and Dibb does well at bringing this forward. The film is flanked by an amazing score and gritty yet lush colouring in cinematography.
Yet as brilliant as the performances are and great as the production is, this is a run of the mill WW1 movie and ultimately winds up with average results.
Journey’s End is out 2nd February!