Customer Review

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Trench lacking in depth, 23 Nov. 2009
This review is from: The Trench [DVD] [1999] (DVD)
For Daniel Craig fans eager for an early pre-Bond outing, or as an introduction to First World War history, this isn't bad, but the mixture of Irish, Scottish and northern accents might make it a little hard for non-Brits to follow.
Be warned though, the language is strong and there are the occasional very bloody scenes. But then, it would.
On 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 60,000 British troops were killed. It remains the bloodiest single day of slaughter in the history of the British Army.
The Trench is set against that backdrop, though at times it seems a million miles away.
A pre-requisite of a war film, one would have thought, is action, but vast chunks of this one are spent dealing with tedium.
In that respect it is quite accurate. From the British side there was a long build up to "the Big Push" including a days-long artillery bombardment of the German lines.
The heroes of our story are "holding the line", manning the front-line trenches less than 400 yards away from the Germans, while the reserve area is filled with more and more men.
The British "tactics" such as they were, involved a week long barrage (to blow away all the barbed wire and scare the living daylights out any Germans lucky enough to survive). Everything else hung off that one criteria.
Because most Germans were presumed dead, the British soldiers would advance, at a walk, with bayonets fixed. At 7.30am, in broad daylight. The Generals who dreamed up such follies predicted their brave boys would suffer only 10% casualties.
What went wrong, of course, was that the wire was not blown away and most of the Germans had survived because they built trench dug-outs deep enough to avoid the shelling. Once that almighty barrage finally came to an end they rushed back up to their positions, manned their machine guns and rained down a murderous hail of bullets.
In the build-up to July 1, many soldiers and even some junior officers, began to have doubts about whether this could work. That aspect does comes across, but while there is good acting from much of the cast (notably Paul Nicholls, Daniel Craig, Julian Rhind-Tutt and James D'Arcy), the writing makes them one dimensional.
Nicholls (Pte Billy MacFarlane) is the 17-year-old naive lad who lied about his age to join-up with his brother. D'Arcy (Pte Colin Daventry) is the educated, intelligent trooper who can see it all going wrong long before the others and goes "over the top" sobbing with fear. Rhind-Tutt (Lt Ellis Harte) is the inexperienced young officer who would have been on the family cotton farm in South Africa had it not been for the war. He can barely cope and gets through the day by swigging whiskey from his hip flask.
Craig (Sgt Telford Winter) arguably turns in the best performance, but even his character, the professional soldier shouting at the men to keep them in line, is barely developed.
The trench warfare of the First World War is synonymous with mud and No-man's Land was a bomb-cratered hell-hole. Here the trenches are virtually bone-dry and in the final, climatic battle scene, the lads advance over a brilliantly green unscarred field. Blackadder Goes Fourth, despite being a comedy, was much more realistic in its portrayal.
The film blurb on describes it as "tense and original" but in truth it is not especially either of those. A play called The Accrington Pals, despite being mostly about the women left behind at home during the First World War, covers the tensions leading up to the first day of the Somme much better and the film All Quiet on the Western Front and the musical Oh What a Lovelly War! both dealt more effectively with its insanity.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 24 Apr 2011 23:44:03 BDT
60,000 British soldiers were casualties on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. Approximately one third were killed, the remainder wounded. The bloodiest battle in which English soldiers participated was the Battle of Towton in Yorkshire in 1461 (during the Wars of the Roses) in which an estimated 28,000 were killed in one day.

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Feb 2013 10:02:59 GMT
Yes, and we all know how accurate battlefield casualty figures are from the Middles Ages!
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