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Asa Butterfield in Journey's End.

Steffan Hill/Courtesy of LevelFilm


3 out of 4 stars
  • Journey’s End
  • Directed by Saul Dibb
  • Written by Simon Reade
  • Starring Sam Claflin and Asa Butterfield
  • Opening March 30 in Toronto
  • 14A
  • 107 minutes

In Journey’s End, 12 soldiers are told to do the impossible. Jump the trench. Cross No Man’s Land in broad daylight. Grab a German and hightail it back. None were expected to survive, but the manoeuvre was deemed necessary to slow the Germans. The time of day was mandated so the generals could get a full report before dinner at 8.

The setting is northern France in the spring of 1918, where British Company C has landed at the front just as the enemy is preparing an offensive. Saul Dibb’s remake is based on the play by R.C. Sherriff, who fought in the First World War himself.

Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin) is a good soldier but a broken man, drowning in whisky. Second-in-command Osborne (Paul Bettany) is the glue holding both Stanhope and the company together. Young Raleigh (Asa Butterfield) is an innocent who has pulled strings to get to the front, expecting “adventure.” He soon realizes he’s found slaughter.

The actors are superb at impressing some humanity onto this ugliness. Their civility is in the details: a morning shave, a cheerio and “one small pipe” before jumping the trench and heading into the German line of fire.

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