Journey’s End

journeys_end_ver2_xlgBased on the 1928 play written by R. C. Sherriff that has been adapted to film four previous times, Journey’s End is a gripping war film set in the battlefields of World War I that is effectively able to explore the psychological effects experienced by a group of British officers as a result of a truly outstanding cast. The story follows C-company of the British Army who are sent to the northern French trenches for a six-day rotation in March 1918 during a time when a major German offensive may take place. Clearly based on a theatrical production, the film is much more of a intimate affair in which the characters are immersed in emotional dialogue rather than a typical war movie focused more on the action sequences, and most of the story takes place in an underground bunker reserved for officers in the trenches. The unit is led by Captain Stanhope, played by Sam Claflin, who is clearly suffering from PTSD after witnessing the horrors of war and resorts to drinking to soothe his severe depression. Rounding out the all-star cast, Paul Bettany plays Stanhope’s best friend Lieutenant Osborne, Stephen Graham plays the more upbeat Second Lieutenant Trotter, and Toby Jones plays the officers’ cook Private Mason. Things change with the arrival of the very young new officer Second Lieutenant Raleigh, played by Asa Butterfield, who knows Stanhope from school and whose sister is in a relationship with Stanhope. Fearful that his tragic change of character will be revealed to Raleigh and thereby his love interest, Captain Stanhope is upset that Raleigh has been assigned to his unit and feels that he must try to put on a more hopeful façade. Throughout the movie, the characters try to distract themselves from their horrific situations by recounting their personal civilian lives and talking about their futures back home. Underscoring how warfare changes one’s psyche, the vibrant Second Lieutenant Raleigh rapidly becomes a shell of himself and more like the despondent Stanhope after he goes on his first raid across no man’s land to the German trenches in which several of his fellow man are brutally killed. Overall, I found it to be one of the more emotionally powerful films about World War I that brings to life the truism that war is hell and has a profound impact on those who serve.

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