Special Presentations

Journey's End

Saul Dibb

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Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, and Paul Bettany star in this tense drama about a group of British soldiers awaiting a massive German offensive during the First World War, in this new adaptation of R.C. Sherriff's classic play.

R.C. Sherriff's play Journey's End opened, with some difficulty due to its subject matter, in 1928, a mere 10 years after the events depicted. Its director, a young James Whale, went on to film the story in 1930. Now, nearly a century since the end of the First World War, Saul Dibb has directed Simon Reade's updated screenplay, an uncompromising yet loving account of a British infantry company standing by for a major German offensive everyone knew was coming.

Waiting is the name of the game in the trenches at Mont Saint-Quentin, where, over a few days, a group of exhausted and resigned officers and enlisted men try to keep their heads down. The film centres on three soldiers: erstwhile schoolteacher Lieutenant Osborne (Paul Bettany), who has recently rotated back to the frontlines to relieve another officer; Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin, in a role first played onstage by Laurence Olivier), who according to Osborne is "the best company commander we've got"; and the green Second Lieutenant Raleigh (Asa Butterfield), who requested assignment to Stanhope's command because the two attended the same school.

Stanhope is at the end of his rope, still in command but propping himself up with alcohol. A group of equally fatigued troops, sanguine and phlegmatic, banter back and forth throughout the nerve-wracking wait. Some joke; others are in a state of shell shock.

Journey's End concentrates on these citizen soldiers and the incredible stress they are subject to. Action, when it comes, is quick and brutal, but Dibb fixes his eye firmly on the intricate psychology that ties this group of men together.

PIERS HANDLING

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