Have always loved RC Sherriff's play 'Journey's End' ever since studying it twice in secondary school in English when studying World War I literature. 'Journey's End' is fascinating and powerful enough when reading it, it is even more so when talking about and analysing it when all the different perspectives, themes, conflicts and distinctions are picked up on.
This 2017 film adaptation lived up to my already high expectations and more. To me, it's one of 2017's (released this year here) best and most emotional films but sadly it is likely to go under-appreciated, due to being released very close to the Oscars/Academy Awards ceremony, not yet having a worldwide release (so far only restricted to three countries) and being alongside films that by type audiences are more likely to go and see. That's my feeling at the moment and here's to hoping in the future it will be proved wrong, because it does deserve much better than that. Not just because it is a wonderful film but also that as said giving a film that does an important subject justice and so far get a limited release in a centenary year is something of a disrespect.
'Journey's End' is very successful at capturing the spirit of Sherriff's play in themes and characterisation, with all the different varied perspectives, varied class distinctions and characters that easily could have been just world war clich?s rightly given the complexity they have in the play. It is equally successful in not being stage bound or too stagy, a danger with play to film adaptations and a trap fallen into numerous times, capturing the tense claustrophobia of the setting while opening out the action that it feels cinematic without getting overblown.
There is a real sense of innocence, courageousness, conflict and tragedy, with the powers of loyalty and friendship being rays of hope in a hopeless situation. 'Journey's End' is an emotionally complex play and needs an emotionally complex film with all those themes present, something that we get here. This is not a film to be dismissed for having a familiar message, considering the different perspectives and varied characterisations (shell-shocked and conflicted captain, loyal and voice of reason "uncle" figure, the somewhat na?ve youth, the coward, the comic relief) there is so much more to 'Journey's End' than just saying that "war is hell", far too simplistic a description for what it's trying to say.
On an emotional level, 'Journey's End' is tremendously powerful, making its points without being heavy-handed, being incredibly heartfelt that you really care for the characters' fates and find it very difficult to hold back tears and making one really appreciate the bravery of those who fought and not to forget them or take them for granted.
Visually, 'Journey's End' is very well made. Evocative and handsome in design, bleakly atmospheric in how things are lit and colour scheme and there is a suitably claustrophobic dynamic to the camera work that opens up the action and captures the full horrors of this period. The music is suitably urgent and melancholic, didn't find it that intrusive personally.
Dialogue wrenches the gut, breaks the heart and provokes thought, and brings out every ounce of what makes the characters more than just world war clich?s. Can't fault the continually compelling and powerful storytelling or the direction.
'Journey's End' is very strongly acted, especially Sam Claflin in an intensely brooding and heartfelt performance as Stanhope, a very conflicted character with plenty of meat to him and a representation of how those were damaged by war and seen what it is like. Paul Bettany plays Osborne with plenty of sympathetic authority, being the figure all live up to and holds everything together. Asa Butterfield captures Raleigh's youthful naivety, with his point of view of war initially being a less realistic one, but that was true of a lot of men who fought in the war being proud to fight for their country without knowing what they were in for.
Toby Jones provides some welcome comic relief as Mason without jarring, and Stephen Graham similarly as Trotter. Robert Glenister is a commanding colonel and Tom Sturridge is a convincing cowardly figure.
Overall, a brilliantly done and powerful film. 10/10 Bethany Cox