Review: War on the brink of madness in “Journey’s End”

Review: War on the brink of madness in “Journey’s End”

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Catch this flick today through tomorrow, April 12 at Fountain Theater, 2469 Calle De Guadalupe. Admission Prices: Regular $7; Matinees $6; Members $5; Seniors over 60, Military, and Students with ID $6; Wednesdays $5.  

Grade: A

Photo courtesy of imdb.com Coping mechanisms for the three junior officers in the dugout are just not working as they face the horrors of war.
Photo courtesy of imdb.com
Coping mechanisms for the three junior officers in the dugout are just not working as they face the horrors of war.

By Jeff Berg
For the Bulletin

Although this film takes place on the fields of war in 1918, it is more about the psychological effects upon the soldiers rather than actual combat, which only takes place in two brief, but harrowing sequences.

Based on a play from 1928, and already made into a film a couple of times previously, “Journey’s End” often has the feel of a play, one that is very intense and real.

The settings are dank, wet, mud-filled, dark and depressing, and often underground in a dugout or in the trenches, which becomes a major factor in the picture.

A new and enthusiastic officer, Raleigh, has requested and received assignment to the area commanded by a friend, Captain Stanhope, who he knows from school and family acquaintances.

Unbeknownst to Raleigh, Stanhope is on the edge of madness, unable to cope without drink and seldom willing to do as ordered, which then leads only to the butchery of more and more of the men in his command.

Typical coping mechanisms for Stanhope and the other junior officers in the dugout – Osborne, Mason, and Trotter – just don’t work, and Stanhope is at the end of his rope while still trying to protect his men from the sacrificial slaughter ordered by higher-ups on the British front.

The film also depicts the class divisions, daily and mundane routine, and mental anguish shared by these men.

Ordered, to some relief, to not attack, at least for a while, Stanhope and Raleigh exchange brief but biting conversations at the same time we watch Stanhope lose more and more of his loose grip on reality. The other men try to remain upright and stoic, but it is of little use at this point in a war that ended up taking the lives of nearly 10 million soldiers (on both sides) and over 7 million dead civilians.

The play, written by one R.C. Sheriff, is a classic in anti-war works, based on his own experiences as a Second Lieutenant who saw combat duty before being wounded at Ypres.  Denied a permanent position in the army, he later wrote more plays and several screenplays for American-made films including the superb “Mrs. Miniver,” which starred one-time New Mexico resident Greer Garson and told the story of a family’s tribulations during the early days of World War II.

It won six Oscars including best picture and best actress for Garson.

“Journey’s End” probably won’t win any big awards, but it is a fine study in the ways of war, thus offering even more reasons for war to cease once and for all.

Jeff Berg has been reviewing movies for the Bulletin since 2002. He lives in Santa Fe and may be reached at nedludd76@hotmail.com.

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