Whitby Film Society
This new version of RC Sherriff’s classic play about the futility and slaughter of the First World War is powerful, passionate and superbly acted— “not a war film, but a drama set in war”.
Asa Butterfield plays the young Second Lieutenant Raleigh, newly arrived at the front in 1918. In all his moon-faced naivety, he asks to join C company in the trenches, because the commanding officer there is Captain Stanhope, who was a few years ahead of Raleigh at school and a family friend. The artless innocence of his beamingly casual attitude, so imminently to be ruined, is made even more ironic by the nepotism. Raleigh doesn’t want to avoid conflict, but to be in the thick of it. However, Stanhope is not the boy Raleigh once knew. The war has made him an aggressive, care-worn, self-hating alcoholic, who is horrified to see young Raleigh and realise how he must look in the eyes of someone who once liked and rather hero-worshipped him. Their horrible situation of boredom and nerve-shredding tension suddenly becomes even more unspeakable when the order comes through that Osborne and Raleigh are to lead a raiding party, in broad daylight, into enemy lines to capture a German soldier for intelligence purposes. There has been little planning, no practice, and it is to be done simply so that the report can be completed before the evening’s formal dinner. They are just expected to do it. The aftermath of this grisly adventure brings all their despair into yet sharper focus.