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Walter's War (2008)

TV Movie  |   |  Biography, Drama, War  |  9 November 2008 (UK)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 45 users  
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The substantially true story of Walter Tull, a black man whose grandfather was a slave but who was born in Folkestone, Kent, in England, and who, in the years prior to the First World War, ... See full summary »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Walter Tull
Lieutenant Harper
Young Soldier
Kwame Kwei-Armah ...
Daniel Tull
Glen Shaw ...
Young Walter
Chris Young ...
Young Edward
Julian Forsyth ...
Reverend Dr Stevenson
Edward Tull
Ewan Stewart ...
Sergeant Fuller
Dugald Bruce Lockhart ...
Captain Coombes
Private Oswald Hennessey
Christian Roe ...
Private William Cooper
Chris Starkie ...
Private Sebastian Willis
Hamish MacDougall ...
Private Christopher Hummins
Jonathan Cullen ...
Lieutenant Colonel Baxter


The substantially true story of Walter Tull, a black man whose grandfather was a slave but who was born in Folkestone, Kent, in England, and who, in the years prior to the First World War, was a professional football player for Tottenham Hotspur. However, despite the odd flashback the film focuses solely on his prowess in the war. In 1916 he is a non-commissioned officer, heroically attempting to save comrades and is recommended for training as an officer at a military school in Scotland where he encounters prejudice because of his colour, as well as impressing and dating a local girl. His single-mindedness and desire to be the best impresses the fair-minded Captain Coombes and he ultimately attains his commission. However, he is killed in 1918 and a postscript informs us that, whilst he was recommended for the Military Cross, it was never bestowed upon him. Written by don @ minifie-1

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Biography | Drama | War





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9 November 2008 (UK)  »

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A trite script, terrible acting and unimaginative direction do its subject a grave disservice
9 October 2014 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

The little-seen BBC4 documentary Walter Tull: The Forgotten Hero was a decent attempt to shed some light on the largely undocumented career of one of the first black premiership football players who went on to become the first black commissioned officer in the British Army (and the last for more than 20 years) despite regulations specifically prohibiting the promotion of those not 'of pure European descent.' The lack of first-hand material was a problem, and it overlooked one of the reasons for his promotion – the huge number of casualties among officers meant the army could no longer afford to be so elitist, even if it meant the then unthinkable step of a black man commanding white troops – but it did give a sense of how remarkable his forgotten achievements were.

Unfortunately, BBC4's accompanying one-hour dramatization of his wartime career, Walter's War is quite terrible despite its best intentions. Kwame Kwei-Armah's trite script is an assembly of crudely delivered lists of facts or polemic arguments lifted from textbooks masquerading as (exceptionally bad) dialogue, the characters too much of the end of the 20th century rather than its beginning, their ridiculously modern attitudes and means of expression often totally at odds with the reality of the period, as if the writer had never bothered to read any of the thousands of journals, memoirs and diaries of the period. People don't talk, they make points or exchange dogma in the most unconvincing ways, while its tired and underbudgeted combat scenes are the hundredth tired copies of Saving Private Ryan, showing how little imagination director Alrick Riley brought to the material.

Worse, it does Tull a terrible disservice, creating a stereotyped surly and resentful character quite at odds with the more dignified, almost Job-like accounts of the real man himself, with a particularly poor lead performance from O.T. Fagbenle delivering the coup de grace: at times it's almost as if they wanted to turn Tull into a trivial, petty figure. A poor tribute to the man himself, hopefully the forthcoming biography of him (which appears currently to be without a publisher) will rectify the show's many failings.

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