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Journey's End (Sam Claflin/Paul Bettany) - Review

Journey's End

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

RC Sherriff’s classic First World War drama has regularly provided theatre-goers with a moving insight into the horrors of the trenches. Now finally adapted for the big screen, it loses none of its potency.

Saul Dibb’s film may operate on a larger canvas but it remains an intimate portrait of the effect war has on men.

Sam Claflin heads an impressive ensemble as Captain Stanhope, a leader haunted as much by what he has asked men to do as by what he has also witnessed. Now reliant upon a bottle for solace, he must once again rally his troops against an impending German onslaught: the type of which, he knows, few will walk away from.

Waiting with him are the likes of Paul Bettany’s Osborne, a kindly father figure to many of the men and Stanhope’s voice of reason; Stephen Graham’s Trotter, a journeyman soldier with a hearty appetite; Toby Jones’ wary cook Mason, and – newly arrived – Asa Butterfeld’s Raleigh, a wide-eyed rookie keen to be reunited with his former friend, Stanhope, yet painfully unaware of the toll war has taken upon him.

The bulk of Dibb’s film is spent in the make-shift HQ of Stanhope, as he wrestles with his colleagues, his superiors and himself while attempting to keep morale afloat. It’s therefore a talky picture that seldom strays too far from its stagey trappings.

But while some may view this as a missed opportunity, it does ensure that the talented ensemble cast have plenty to work with.

Claflin and Bettany are particularly formidable: the former carrying his demons like a cross, and struggling to keep a lid on his dwindling sanity, while Bettany goes about his business with a quiet, unassuming dignity that belies his own fears.

Jones and Graham offer the odd blasts of humour without compromising on their own drama, while Butterfeld conveys his coming-of-age all too well.

Dibb does venture into No Man’s Land for one nightmarish sequence and manages to convey the claustrophobia and uncertainty of day to day life amid the mud and blood. But he also employs a more traditional approach rather than anything too showy or unexpected.

Journey’s End therefore operates as more of a character study than a full blown war movie; one that quietly celebrates heroism, sacrifice and brotherly bonds while turning its main focus on the tragedy, waste and emotional toll of conflict.

Hence, the film stands as a powerful tribute to those who fought during the First World War, thereby bringing Sherriff’s classic text to a new generation, while also holding plenty of contemporary relevance for those contemplating future conflicts.

It is a moving, thought-provoking piece of work that genuinely impresses.

Read our cast interview

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 1hr 47mins
UK Release Date: February 2, 2018