Journey’s End, Film Review. Picturehouse@F.A.C.T., Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 8.5/10

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Sam Clafin, Paul Bettany, Tom Sturridge, Toby Jones, Stephen Graham, Robert Glenister, Nicholas Agnew, Miles Jupp, Theo Barklam-Biggs, Jake Curran, Andy Gathergood, Rupert Wickham, Jack Holden, Tom Ward-Thomas, Derek Barr, Jack Riddiford, Elliot Balchin, Alais Lawson, Adam Colborne, Rose Read, Harry Jardine.

It is not the battle itself, the moment when it all ends and the tears shed, it is the reassurance of existence, even in the most inhospitable of places, of the dirt, the mud and the endless torture of waiting for an attack, it is in the moments before, the quiet and the damned making themselves known and invading the final private thoughts of those who understand that the battle, but not the war, is lost

A film that makes you care about people that are far removed from your own lives, that you instinctively feel a connection with regardless of the known outcome, that is a moment in which to, perhaps not treasure, but understand the guilt of survivorship, of seeing the world that has shaped you because of the actions of a group of men from a hundred years before.

Unlike the commemorations that saw the 100th Anniversary of the start of World War One, the sense of pride that seemed to be in flavour throughout the country in August 2014, the events that were marked in between, as we come to conclusion of one of the most bitterly divided wars in history, politically, socially, that sense of upbeat jingoism has been replaced by the very act of survival that permeated the trenches across Europe.

In time for the anniversary of the Spring Offensive that saw 700,000 men die on the front lines, a film just as important as any that has tried to come to terms with the events surrounding the so called Great War, Journey’s End is a piece of history in itself, one that does not deal with the battle, of the heroism, the pointing of fingers as men’s lives were lost in the heat of bullets and the constant shelling, one that does not deal with the aftermath of letters written and the dead counted back and given service; this is the wait, the nerves being frayed, of wide eyed optimism in a new officer recruit and the rose tinted glasses smashed as the first shot of the fateful day arrive.

Saul Gibbs direction and the outstanding cast, including the down to earth Second Lieutenant Trotter played by the consummate Stephen Graham, Paul Bettany’s Lieutenant’s “Uncle” Osbourne and Sam Claflin’s on the edge of his own destruction Captain Stanhope, make sure that the horror of war is felt with trepidation, with all sense of hope being lost, inch by inch, yard by yard and frayed nerve by frayed nerve.

It is in the horror of war that cinema has perhaps excelled and falsified most in, the equal partnership that reigns in the realm of heroes and misguided patriotism; it is to Journey’s End that the former is very much in evidence; it asks the question of the watcher if they could stand the growing terror in side them that this was to be your final day and how would you acknowledge it.

Journey’s End is an important film which does not dwell on the heat of the battle but instead of the time before, a rare commodity in cinema.

Ian D. Hall