You're not likely to come out of seeing this with a song in your heart. But if you're hankering after a practically unremittingly bleak World War One drama set almost entirely within the narrow muddy confines of a dug-out trench and its adjacent quarters, with an all-male cast (apart from a few seconds of a female form just before the close), then this should fit the bill for you.
You may well be familiar with the film's title as I was from the stage play (1928) by R.C.Sheriff, and which I'd seen some decades ago - the play being followed by a novel based on the theatre version. Even in this film adaptation it's pretty clear that it's tailor-made for the stage. There is little attempt here to open it up cinematically, which is good for it retaining its essentially claustrophobic atmosphere.
It takes place in 1918 in northern France, a few months before the Armistice, where a British contingent is holed up right on the front line, and knowing that a German offensive will be launched two days hence. They have been drawn the short straw in that in interchanging manning of the trench they are the ones who will be there to try to stop or hinder the German advance. It's these two days of waiting which creates the film's tension, and this is indeed ratcheted up quite effectively. Much understandable bickering and loss of tempers between the men reveals their suspense of waiting, not knowing which of them, if any, will survive to tell the tale. Attempts at humour are brief and usually fall flat.
Sam Claflin plays the nervous wreck of a Captain, finding it hard enough to keep his own composure never mind the jumpy men under his command. He's joined by Asa Butterfield as a wet-behind-the- ears young officer eager to play his part while trying to conceal his natural anxieties. It's the first time I've seen Butterfield since his appearance as the titular 'Hugo' in Scorsese's 2011 film of that name, a film for which, having now seen four times, I still retain considerable affection. In 'Hugo' Butterfield was then a boy. Now, of course, he's become a young man, and showing good potential as an up and coming actor.
Among the rest of the cast there's Paul Bettany, as well as the always reliable Toby Jones, though his is little more than a bit-part.
Director Saul Dibbs ('Suite Francaise', 'The Duchess') does a fine job of transferring the play (as adapted by Simon Reade) to the screen, though it does still betray its theatrical source. I felt myself wishing that I'd rather have seen it again with the immediacy and involvement of a live production. Perhaps anyone coming to this film without knowledge of its origin will appreciate it more.
Violence in the climactic battle scene is not shown in lingering close-ups, so there's little need to shield the eyes.
Colour throughout is in appropriate sepia and muddy tints.
Good enough, then, but I don't think it says anything that can't be said more effectively in the setting of live theatre..................6.5.
3 hours ago