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Film Of The Week Film of the week: Generational genocide

The horrors of a futile conflict which wiped out millions in WWI are captured to devastating effect in Journey's End, says MARIA DUARTE

Journey's End (12A)

Directed by Saul Dibb

 

THIS tense and claustrophobic film, an adaptation of RC Sheriff's 1928 play and novel, dispels all heroic or romanticised notions about warfare.

 

It's set in the spring of 1918, with WWI entering its fourth year, amid rumours that a German offensive is imminent and C Company, led by Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin), is about to embark on six days of duty on the frontline trenches of northern France.

 

Among the officers (Paul Bettany, Tom Sturridge and Stephen Graham) is the young Raleigh (an impressive Asa Butterfield), fresh out of training and eager to make a difference, who's pulled strings to serve alongside his friend Stanhope, his sister's fiance, but Stanhope, a shell of the man Raleigh once knew, is battling PTSD with the help of whisky.

 

The only person Stanhope confides in is his closest friend and confidant, his second-in-command Osbourne (an outstanding Bettany). The quintessential English officer, he knows exactly what the stakes are but tries to maintain morale.

 

Simon Reade's heartbreaking screenplay pulls no punches, while director Saul Dibb delivers a raw and brutally honest portrayal of war and its utter futility in the cramped and claustrophobic conditions of trench life.

 

Claflin gives his most complex and nuanced performance to date, while Bettany delivers his richest and most heart-wrenching portrayal as a man who knows his end is inevitable but tries to make his last moments as pleasing and relaxing as possible. Lighting his pipe, he reminisces about life in England with Raleigh before they head off into No Man's Land.

 

The waste and loss of a whole generation is brought home again by this powerful war drama.

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