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Film review: Journey’s End is a chilling and moving film

PUBLISHED: 10:24 05 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:24 05 February 2018

Journey's End directed by Saul Dibb and starring Sam Claflin. Picture: LIONSGATE/STEFFAN HILL

Journey's End directed by Saul Dibb and starring Sam Claflin. Picture: LIONSGATE/STEFFAN HILL

© Steffan Hill 2016

Although 90 years have passed since R. C. Sherriff’s play was first performed and a hundred since the events depicted, this Great War drama remains as pertinent as ever.

The latest cinematic adaption of Journey’s End is a superbly bleak and atmospheric film and the finest interpretation of Sherriff’s semi-autobiographical work.

Set during the third battle of the Aisne, the film focuses on a small group of soldiers - Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin), Lieutenant Osborne (Paul Bettany), Second Lieutenants Hibbert (Tom Sturridge) Trotter, (Stephen Graham) and Raleigh (Asa Butterfield) and Private Mason (Toby Jones) - as they await their fate.

Shot in Suffolk and Wales, Laurie Rose’s cinematography and Libby Uppington’s set design are outstanding.

The sweeping shots of the desolate battlefield and the vertiginous camera angles of the claustrophobic confines in the soldiers’ dug-out magnificently convey the horror of the situation in which the characters are trapped.

The central cast delivers sterling work. Claflin is captivating as the traumatised Stanhope, his haunted expressions carrying as much weight as his alcohol-fuelled outbursts.

Bettany impresses too as the older, warm-hearted Osborne, offering words of comfort to those around him all the while trying to contain his own fear.

It is director Saul Dibb, however, who deserves most praise. The director chooses to forgo the sentimentalism war dramas often fall victim to and instead offers a powerful, timely reminder of the cost of war.

Journey’s End is a chilling and moving film supercharged by two terrific performances and Dibb’s strong direction.

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