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Shot 99.9% INSIDE the trench to convey the sense of claustrophobia. It works. You can almost smell the trench. I personally think that the low budget style produced a happy bi-product rather than it being planned. Not a conventional war movie but a VERY British close up at the inter-personal relationships during WW1 before the Battle of The Somme. The youthful Paul Nicholls eminates a young 'duty to your country soldier' and in the alone-ness he fantasises over the memory of a young girl who merely served him with a stamp at his local post office. Loads of blood and guts and a particularly harrowing scene - almost subliminal - which works well as it ensures your brain remembers the real horrors of war at close quarters inside a trench. The usual chain of command reveals why delegation can sometimes disguise cowardice and fear. The film achieves its objective and portrays the awful waste of life.
.... because the opening title sequence is very bland . Compare it to the
shocking title sequence of the 1960s BBC documentary THE GREAT WAR . As the
film goes on we`re introduced to the characters and I couldn`t help noticing
that one is Southern English , a couple are Northern English , a couple are
Jocks , a couple are Irish while the sarge is a scouser . I`m sorry but I
was convinced that British army infantry regiments of the period were
composed of " Pals battalions " , that is battalions composed entirely of
men from the same home town . Take for instance the 16th battalion of The
Royal Scots which was formed in one week and was called " The Hearts
battalion " because it was composed mainly of supporters of Hearts football
club . The 16th Royal Scots even had 16 Hearts players in its ranks so I
don`t believe for a moment that any British army infantry platoon was as
regionally mixed as the one here
The more THE TRENCH goes on the more I found myself questioning the accuracy of the movie especially its mood and its sense of time and place . A British made trench in France in 1916 . Since when did the Brits build trenches like the one seen here ? It even has a concrete floor that the Germans would have been proud of which seems to go against I`ve seen in photographic evidence . The film also has an anachronistic cynical air , what on the eve of the Somme ? The British troops had witnessed day upon day of hellish bombardment of the German positions and a lot of British soldiers had begun to feel rather sorry for Jerry , and no one but no one in the British lines had any reason to doubt anything less than a swift , spectacular British victory . Of course one day and 20,000 dead British soldiers later changed these thoughts , in fact some historians describe the date 1st of July 1916 " The day British idealism died " . One final point - As at least one other commentator mentioned THE TRENCH contains a large amount of swear words . It has been documented that one criticism by the real life survivors of BAND OF BROTHERS was that the HBO/BBC drama contained too much swearing and that people in the 1940s used far less profane words than people use nowadays . I`m inclined to believe them and I`m also inclined to believe people in 1916 probably swore less than people in the 1940s so I doubt if the men in the trenches used the " F " word in every sentence
Unfortunately who German bullets didn`t claim on that grim day have been killed by the passing of time so the chances of someone who was there writing into this site and telling us their opinion of THE TRENCH are very remote . A pity because I`d be very interested what they thought of it . As for myself I found the ending moving ( How could it not be ? ) but the rest is rather poor history and a rather poor film that seems to have homo erotic undertones
Strangely this film has grown on me and I'm not sure why but still have a hate for it. The acting is fairly sound and it has some good moments but there isn't much feel for realism. For a start the trenches would have been infested with rats and lice and from what I've read about The Somme it seemed a lot more draumatic than what was portrayed in this film. It just looked too clean. The main hardship they had experienced was boredom, not relentless rain and the constant madness of bombardments. Also what was the point of capturing a German and then not interrogate him, but give him a fag and then let him go? Another wrong point is that the battalions would have been from the same region. Yeh, I'm being picky but why the scots were with southerners and northerners I don't know. The end of the film is the worst. Surely if there had been nights of endless shelling you'd expect to see some shell holes when going over the top? Could of had a nice picnic on that land. Shame, if the director had read more relevant books it could have been really good.
World War I has been very neglected by the movie industry, so that fact in itself makes this film slightly "unusual". While it's impossible to say how "accurate" this depiction of life in the trenches really is, to my eye the sets, the uniforms, the equipment etc. looked pretty impressive. However, I did have a problem with the gratuitous use of the "f" word, which all the characters seemed to use more and more as the film went on. I have nothing at all against "bad language" in a movie if it's in the right context, but swearing just for the sake of it just gets boring after a while - and more to the point, did young British men nearly 90 years ago REALLY say "f**k" all the time, as young men these days seem to? I would guess not. As a youngster I knew a number of old soldiers (elderly neighbours, great uncles and the like) who had actually fought in the First World War, and I don't recall ever hearing one of them use even mild profanities. So to my ear, much of the banter between the young soldiers in the movie seemed somewhat anachronistic. I also had a problem with the scene when the troops finally went "over the top" towards the end of the movie. Instead of marching across a devastated, shell-cratered moonscape which was typical of World War I battlefields, we had them marching across a very lush, green English field bearing not a single scar of war!!! This, and the complete absence of enemy troops in the movie (apart from the solitary prisoner brought back from a night raid) betrayed the film's low budget. A moderately interesting film that has you sympathising with the characters by the end, but I won't be going out of my way to give it a second viewing and I'm glad that I saw it on TV, rather than spending hard-earned money on the DVD. 5 out of 10.
Who would choose to make their debut a WWI character piece set within the
confines of one trench? For his first directorial effort William Boyd has
not tried to run before he can walk, and Paul Nicholls in his first released
feature plays a role he clearly empathises with.
The relative inexperience of Boyd is evident in the modesty of the production - no expensive effects, no epic locations - but that actually works well in this study of young men trying to cope with the unthinkable horror that characterised the World War One battlefield.
Cooped up for days in dreadful conditions, the various characters - the naive (Nicholls), the intellectual (D'Arcy), the objectionable (Dyer), the loveable fattie (Strachan) - at turns argue with and provide support for each other, but at the end of the day have to face almost certain death on their own and in their own way.
This is not a great film, it doesn't quite provide a strong enough focus to help you empathise with the characters, for the most part it feels like a filmed play, but as a film it is able to provide moments of real visual power such as the final scenes as the boys finally leave the trenches to face the German guns.
For those last few minutes, the realisation of what they are about to do hits you hard, you can really sense the terror that they must have felt.
Despite it's "theatrical" feel at times, and the constraints of its setting, this is a fine and evocative film, with an excellent cast. Paul Nicholls, Danny Dyer and James D'Arcy are not alone in giving faultless performances, but the star of the film must be Daniel Craig, who is superb as Sgt Winter, a man who has survived the battlefield once, but knows his luck is about to run out.
It's heart might be in the right place, but this tepid misfire looks
like a bad TV schools production in every way. The 'exteriors' are
obviously interior studio sets, and not very convincing ones. It's so
badly lit that when the film finally goes outdoors to rip off the end
of Gallipoli (which it does incredibly badly, like everything else) the
change of film stock is so jarring it hurts.
The characters are childish stereotypes talking in unbelievable clichés and the film is frequently just plain wrong about details and attitudes of the average WW1 Tommy: politically correct, maybe, but historically it's a travesty (no Mr Boyd, officers DID go over the top: the highest percentage of casualties was officers, and even many generals died in battle).
But more than being badly directed, looking cheap, getting its facts wrong and going with every cliché Boyd can find, it's biggest sin is that it's just so bloody boring. Bad on every level.
WW1 was a terrible tragedy, and those who died in it deserve better than this terrible, terrible film.
I went considerably out of my way to be the only woman in the theater
to see "The Trench" from Britain, a conventional continuation of the
British obsession with World War I as being the most symbolic war. Not
much new here that wasn't in "All Quiet on the Western Front" or "Paths
of Glory" or "Gallipoli", but I suppose some lessons need illustrating
for new generations.
Taking place claustrophobically in the trenches just prior to the bloody Battle of the Somme with the sounds of war all around--though it could also have been taking place in the canals of Mars against aliens-- the characters are typically class-based Brits (from ineffectual aristocratic officer to working class blokes whose conversations need subtitles for American viewers), but manage to stay above stereotypes through excellent acting (with actors familiar to us from PBS's "Mystery" and "Masterpiece Theater") and personalization.
I'm probably the only one other than Daniel Craig's family (and the webmasters at his fan site) who went to see the movie for him, but his career soldier sergeant in particular is a real human being.
Otherwise, as always with ensemble war movies, I have trouble telling the young guys in uniform apart to keep the characters straight.(originally written 12/2/2000)
I really don't need a war movie to be full of explosions to like it,
but there was nothing about this movie worth liking. I really couldn't
find a story to follow. The characters weren't developed enough for me
to feel sympathetic for when they get picked off at the end. The
production value of this film was like watching a play on PBS. If the
producers and director wanted to give us a feel of what hell they went
through in the trench having every other scene with the actors eating
isn't going to help. I mean how about making it a true hell hole? I
know this is supposed to take place in Summer, but mud, rain, and
seeing the actor's breath to show cold, would have really helped. The
No Man's Land was so Pristine that I thought the Tele-Tubbies were
going to come rolling around. They could have thrown in barbed-wire,
mortar shell holes, and the like.
Don't even bother borrowing them from the library. This thing is really disappointing.
Set in the run up to the disastrous first day of the 1916 Battle of the
Somme, The Trench isn't entirely worthless, but it's not a movie, more
a filmed play (despite being written as a movie), and a very poor one
at that with that 1970s BBC For Schools television look. The decision
to shoot on a soundstage is particularly disastrous, since it never
looks like anything but a soundstage, and this despite having a good
cinematographer (Tony Pierce-Roberts). The decision to never leave the
trench until the final scene doesn't really work, partially because we
have no indication of the world that awaits them, but largely because
Boyd's finale is just too televisual to have any compensating shock
value. The abrupt jump to exterior for the last couple of minutes (and
very tame they are too) is very noticeable, the film stocks and looks
just not matching at all. Borrowing the final image of Gallipoli as
well doesn't help.
Characters constantly explain what they're doing to each other despite having been in the trench for several weeks or months; there's no immediacy, no sense of danger, no sense of having to live in a fetid, claustrophobic open grave. Indeed, it's one of the most comfortable British trenches I've seen, with an absolutely level floor for the most part place. The soft barrage - the quietest I've ever heard for shells landing 700 yards away - doesn't help. Boyd really doesn't have any idea of the possibilities that cinema has to offer, either camera or sound. It's real problem, though, is that ultimately it's a polite, clean and determinedly inoffensive film about a dirty, ugly war.
Pluses are some good performances, most notably Daniel Craig and Paul Nicholls, the latter improving after a bland start to establish a credible screen presence. There are a couple of good scenes, too, but it doesn't really have the ring of truth or authenticity - the mood seems more influenced by hindsight than the actual mood in the run-up to the first day. Not only do you never feel you're there alongside them, but there's no sense of people caught up in, and disposed by the mad rush of a cruel history beyond their control. There's no dread, no fear, just observation. The shortfall between the film Boyd thought he was making and the bland one he did is made frighteningly apparent by his interviews in the EPK included on the DVD.
When looking at this movie, it becomes obvious that it didn't had a
very high budget. Not only its settings are kept cheap and simple but
also the overall style and atmosphere of the movie. Nevertheless the
movie is good enough and also serves its purpose well enough.
In my opinion it's always interesting to watch a movie about WW I, since it's a subject that doesn't get much lighted in movies too often. It usually are small European productions like this one that handle the subject. It in my opinion makes WW I an underused part of history in the movie making business.
It's a slowly told movie, set purely in British trench during WW I, in France, in the days before the battle of the Somme. One of the bloodiest battles in human history, with over one million casualties. Because the story is slow and set mainly at one location, it allows the movie to deepen its characters out and allow the actors to do their job and carry the movie.
It's however definitely true that the movie is filled with far too many characters to put in a 100 minutes short movie. I'm sure the story and all of its characters would had worked out fine in a mini-series but it's a bit too much to put in a movie. It has as a result that none of the characters ever get really interesting- or fleshed out good enough to care about them. It makes the movie emotionally flat and even also quite boring at certain points, also since not really that much interesting is happening in the movie.
The dialog and situations are also far too cliché to consider them good or original. The movie offers very little surprises and it makes "The Trench" perhaps a bit of an obsolete movie to watch.
The actors still do their very best to carry the movie to an higher level. Daniel Craig is really superb in his role and he provides the movie still with some much needed emotions. It was also fun to see Cillian Murphy in a small and early role. Obviously too small to really make a lasting impression though.
And than about the end battle. Well, when looking at this movie you should know better than to expect a big spectacular ending. If you already watched the first 90 minutes of this movie, you just know you're plain wrong to expect suddenly something big and spectacular. So in my opinion the ending just felt right and it was suiting with the rest of the movie. But obviously, it doesn't do much justice to the real battle of the Somme that was one of the biggest of WW I and also one of the bloodiest in human history. This obviously really doesn't show on screen however.
Good enough to kill some time with. Just don't expect anything spectacular or emotionally powerful.
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