Movies

Journey’s End Review

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Set during WWI in a trench in Northern France, Journey’s End follows a group of British officers led by Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin) while they await their fate to be handed down by a group of bureaucratic army generals. Originally a stage play written by R.C. Sheriff in 1928, this is the fifth cinematic adaptation Journey’s End to make it to the big screen. Director Saul Dibb was tasked with breathing new life into this classic tale and introducing it to a modern audience.

The majority of the scenes play out in the cold, dark, and claustrophobic officers quarters where the group of diverse personalities live in constant fear of an imminent attack. The close quarters setting leads to some intense interactions between the officers and it’s easy to see why the stage play has become a classic. The writing is superb, featuring some great dialog and well-crafted character development. Dibb’s film does a great job of conveying how tough things were for soldiers of the era, and how the use of routine tasks created structure and a sense of purpose at a time when things could feel hopeless and meaningless. It’s clear that the entire company’s lives are in the hands of higher-ups and that they are merely expendable pawns in the greater scheme of things.

Via Denofgeek

The officer roles are played masterfully, led by the heavy-drinking Stanhope and second-in-command, Osborne (Paul Bettany). Osborne along with Trotter (Stephen Graham) take it upon themselves to show the baby-faced officer Raleigh (Asa Butterfield) the ropes. Young Raleigh is a new recruit eager for some action and calls in a favor with his uncle in order to be placed with his schoolmate Stanhope’s unit on the frontline. He quickly discovers that Stanhope has fallen into alcoholism in order to deal with the pressure of being responsible for hundreds of men’s lives on a daily basis. Stanhope is essentially a puppet for the bureaucratic leaders of the army and at times is forced to send off his officers and troops to what is most likely their death.

While Stanhope is unquestionably a drunken asshole, it’s hard not to sympathize with him as you begin to understand the weight placed upon his shoulders. We get the sense that this handsome officer is highly respected by his men, but is known as a drunk whose wrath you want to avoid. Stanhope is ashamed of what he’s become but is at the point of no return, and relies on alcohol to get him through his daily duties. Raleigh and Stanhope are essentially on two separate ends of a character arc, with Raleigh the eager, wet-behind-the-ears new recruit and Stanhope the defeated, self loathing, alcohol infused leader of a doomed infantry squadron on the frontlines of a gruesome war.

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As the unit’s only other seasoned officers, Osborne and Trotter are just holding themselves and their men together. Osborne, with the help of Trotter (the cook) take turns as mother-like figures tasked with handling Stanhope’s deteriorating mental state and managing the group’s diverse personalities. Paul Bettany is fantastic in the role as the former school teacher and plays Osbourne with kindness, warmth, and a calming demeanor. It’s clear through the interactions between Osborne and Stanhope that their is a mutual respect between the two and that Osborne is relied upon to fill in the gaps of Stanhope’s shortcomings.

The remaining cast of officers is filled out by the quiet cook Mason (Toby Jones), and the defeated Hibbert (Tom Surridge) who has completely given up and is unable to perform his duties. Hibbert at times serves as a reflection of the man Stanhope could have become if he hadn’t turned to drinking to deal with the horrors of war and didn’t care about he welfare of his men. There’s a great scene where Stanhope breaks down and confides in Hibbert, telling him that he’s having similar struggles and that there are times when he doesn’t want to get out of bed. The two officers bond over their shared experiences and the scene serves as another example of the film’s excellent dialog and character development.

Via Heyyouguys

In another memorable scene, Osborne and Raleigh are about to head out on a raid. Osborne knows there’s a good chance he won’t return and begins preparing his valuables. He doesn’t want to spook Raleigh, who is eager for his first bit of action so he tells him that he merely doesn’t want to lose them during the operation. Raleigh knows the real reason but tries to put it in the back of his mind. It’s these interactions between the officers that make the film adaptation of Journey’s End a must see for longtime fans and newcomers alike.

Journey’s End is a fantastic film that successfully makes the transition from 90-year-old stage play to modern day theaters. The film features some excellent performances from the cast of officers that make you genuinely care about their well-being and personal struggles. Although the majority of the film takes place in one small room, the confined quarters add to the tension between the officers leading to some compelling interactions. Journey’s End is a film that is worth seeking out and provides the character depth and intimacy that was noticeably absent from 2017’s critically-acclaimed war film, Dunkirk.

8

Journey's End is a wonderful film featuring some standout performances that will have you genuinely caring for the group of officers. Director Saul Dibb has successfully transitioned the 90 year old stage play to modern day theaters.

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