Wait, why are all these soldiers so down and out? Wonder Woman’s gonna kick some Ares ass and the fighting will stop! Shyeah, I wish that’s why this movie was made. Thanks to the success of that superhero movie, a growing in interest in World War I came with it. It could be! It’s usually World War II that gets movies made! A little Peruvian boy can dream, can’t he?!
Anyway, the story looks like it’s about two young men who went to fight the Germans. One’s been literally in the trenches much longer, seems to be a respected soldier or officer, but is certainly not the same man who first left. The other seems pretty green and reunites with his friend, only to learn firsthand how war can change someone on the eve of a massive German offensive.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Asa Butterfield (THE SPACE BETWEEN US , MISS PEREGRINE , HUGO , and upcoming films SLAUGHTERHOUSE RULEZ  and DEPARTURES ) and Sam Claflin (MY COUSIN RACHEL , THE HUNTSMAN 2 , HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY 2 , and upcoming films ADRIFT  and THE NIGHTINGALE ). In support, we have Paul Bettany (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR , LEGION , MASTER AND COMMANDER , and upcoming films AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR  and SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY ), Toby Jones (THE SNOWMAN , MOCKINGJAY 2, THE MIST , LES MISERABLES , and upcoming films JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM  and CHRISTOPHER ROBIN ), and Tom Sturridge (SONG TO SONG ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Saul Dibb, known for THE DUCHESS (2008). Penning the screenplay, we have Simon Reade, known for films that I’ve never heard of. Co-composing the score are Natalie Holt (a ton of short films) and Hildur Guðnadóttir (unknown stuff, but is slated for upcoming films MARY MAGDALENE  and SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO ). The cinematographer is Laurie Rose, known for FREE FIRE (2017), and upcoming films OVERLORD (2018) and STAN AND OLLIE (2019). Finally, the editor is Tania Reddin, known for unknown films, but is slated for the upcoming DENMARK (2018).
Overall, this looks… I won’t lie, a little standard as far as war films are concerned. It’s all about “brotherhood” and “the loss of innocence.” Most, if not all, war films do this. So I find it difficult to be excited for it. But I do enjoy the cast, so that might be what gets me through the flick.
This is my honest opinion of: JOURNEY’S END
Set in Northern France, circa 1918. Jim Raleigh (Asa Butterfield) is fresh out of training and seeks out an old schoolmate of his. Using his uncle General’s influence, he finds his friend, Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin). However, his old friend isn’t the same as he used to be. Having been in the roughest of campaigns against the Germans, Stanhope has become a drunken and bitter leader, though still holds great admiration from his men. Things only get more dire as Stanhope and his officers learn of a massive impending German attack in a mere two days.
I think the main problem that I had with this movie is that I forget that this is based on a stage play. As a result, I should have known that this would be a slow burn of a movie and lean more toward the dramatic side. I guess I usually associate war films with a bit more action and excitement than is presented here. As a result, I found the film mostly dull and kind of boring.
This isn’t to say that it’s bad. The film has some very solid acting from both Butterfield, Claflin, and Bettany. There is no denying that some of these men have a connection with each other and develop a friendship that’s easy to get behind. If I were to hazard a guess, Releigh and Stanhope are supposed to represent two extremes. One is the wide-eyed innocent who has no idea what he’s in for, and Stanhope represents the opposite: the complete loss of humanity who has experienced too much. Again, were I to guess, “Uncle” Osborne is supposed to represent a kind of middle ground. I say this because he’s experienced just as much hardship as Stanhope, but still maintains this polite, well-meaning demeanor. He’s also Stanhope’s best friend in these trenches, and I can guess it’s because of that bright soul that he has that makes him so appealing not just to the other officers and soldiers, but to the audience as well. I would also argue that Toby Jones as Mason can steal the show as the semi-abused cook who gets very little appreciation from his superiors. He’s such a nice guy who tries his hardest to make a decent meal out of the piss-poor rations that he has at his disposal, and even takes a certain amount of pride in some of his meals that when Stanhope practically dismisses him and demands whiskey, you almost hate the good Captain for his insensitivity and gratitude and want to give Mason a hug, or something.
However, as I predicted, the movie doesn’t exactly tread new ground. At its core, the story is about brotherhood, friendship, and the loss of innocence. Yes, I’m just repeating everything I said up top, but it’s true. There’s nothing that this film hasn’t done in more exciting films. TAE GUK GI (2004), SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998), WINDTALKERS (2002), they all have more excitement, but have their fair share of drama. So with that in mind, what really sets this apart? I have to say… not very much, other than “with British actors.” And, even though this may be a result of my sleeping for some of the film (likely no more than ten minute), I never really got a sense of the relationship between Raleigh and Stanhope. I know they’re supposed to be friends from before the war, but… it seems like most of the story, Stanhope and Raleigh never really interact with each other until the end, which isn’t enough to develop an emotional connection between these two men, specifically. The very crux of the film is its very weakness.
At the end of the day, I can’t claim that this movie is anything amazing. It’s pretty flat, and not particularly exciting. But that’s not to say that the acting doesn’t elevate it. Some character connections are great, and what little action is in the film is done pretty well. As far as a recommendation is concerned, I say… viewer beware. Go in knowing that this is more of a drama that just happens to take place during World War I and there’s very little war-based action. It’s all about the character development and connections. If you can go in like that, then you might be in better hands than I was. If you’re expecting something along the lines of DUNKIRK (2017), then you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s kind of an indie film, or has a limited release, so finding it may be a little difficult in local cinemas. But if you find it, arm yourself with knowledge and see it as a matinee or on discount day. Beyond that, I’d say it’s a solid rental. Excitement lost, not much new to be found.
My honest rating for JOURNEY’S END: 3/5