The Reel Review


This old fashioned World War I drama stars Sam Claflin and Paul Bettany as members of a British brigade in Northern France facing imminent attack from massing German troops in what would later be known as the infamous 1918 “Spring Offensive.” The film is an adaptation of R.C. Sheriff’s acclaimed stage play he wrote a decade after the war ended.

The film does an astoundingly realistic job of portraying the dread, tedium and moroseness of soldiers facing their almost certain deaths – so much so, that it is a bit torturous to endure. But Claflin, as the increasingly unhinged Captain Stanhope, and Bettany, as his second in command, truly are outstanding as the officers forced to make the hard decisions under harrowing circumstances while facing their own mortality.

Director Saul Dibb (The Duchess) maintains an unyielding sense of tension throughout, aided by a haunting score from Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir (Sicario: Day of the Soldado). Asa Butterfield also brings added heartbreak as the new young officer who naively requested to join the doomed company led by his former schoolmate and intended brother-in-law, only to see his idol emotionally crumble before his eyes. For World War I history buffs who can appreciate the bleakness of this terrible moment in history, this riveting, well-done psychological drama is a must see.


• While researching his family history for the role, Sam Claflin discovered that his great-great-grandfather was in a battalion posted to the Battle of St. Quentin, which is depicted at the end of the film.

• This is the fifth adaptation of this film – the most notable one was directed by James Whale in 1930.

• Director Saul Dibb says his approach to the film was to think of it as an adaptation of a novel rather than the popular play, and to restrict the point of view to what the characters could see and experience.





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