on 16 December 2002
Saw THE TRENCH recently, the first film by famed novelist William Boyd (Armadillo, A Blue Afternoon) and was very moved by it. An odd piece in its structure (very little happens until the last 10mn) as well as form (almost entirely studio-shot) the film's evocation of the absurdity of war was ultimately very successful.
Disposing of any plot, Boyd slowly traces the 48hrs leading up to the Battle of the Somme, with a group of (very) young soldiers. They are bored, restless and scared and as an audience we are asked to go through the same journey. And when the inevitable does happen we are left in tears because we got to know and like those characters. This film is Spielberg's SAVING PRIVATE RYAN but the other way round (in the Hollywood big budget blockbuster you start off with the battle and the death and the carnage and then you are bored for the following 2hrs!). For emotional payback THE TRENCH is a much more satisfying experience.
Paul Nicholls' performance is probably too weak to carry the film but Daniel Craig's awesome display of charisma is in itself worth watching the film for.
Also I would like to point out to so-called WWI experts who have written reviews for this film that the days depicted in this film take place in June when trenches were not muddy and wet, not yet at least. I do agree though that explosions would have rendered the field itself more lunar than grassy and luxurious.
A definite recommendation. You will not regret it.
on 4 October 2007
Having read all the other reviews, I think that most of them are rather unkind to this movie.
Prior to the battle, the Somme area was a quiet backwater of the Great War with activity consisting of both sides daily lobbing a few shells into "No Man's Land" just to maintain the pretence that there was a war on. Neither side wanted to do anything but have a quiet life.
As for the soldiers being too clean, well in a non-combat area, baths and showers were available as was clean clothing.
The Somme area is chalk, so there would have been none of the mud usually associated with trench warfare.
I'm old enough to have had conversations with Great War veterans, like my grandfathers and other relatives and their perception of the war was of
99% total boredom and 1% sheer terror.
I enjoyed the movie, despite being a Great War buff. The weapons were correct, the uniforms correct. As for the movie, well scripted and well acted.
Worth the money. Buy and enjoy
on 3 November 2003
Though some of the finer points in this film are innaccurate and the charachters are somewhat stereotyped, overall it portrays brilliantly the absurd and hopeless nature of the war and the terror and hopelessness felt by the soldiers. The out of date tactics and strategies used to fight the war are shown in their true light and you are left with a real sense of how awful and tragic a war it was.
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 and an unnatural tidiness. 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 one he did is made frighteningly apparent by his interviews in the EPK included on the disc.
on 24 December 2014
Words cannot describe the utter disappointment I felt after watching this film. Apparently, this film is 'gripping' and 'intense', in no way, shape or form does this justify those tag lines or any money being spent on it. The two hours of my life I wasted ten years ago when watching this film still resonate deeply with me. Do. Not. Buy. Or watch, for that matter. The only reason I'd buy this film is to destroy the disc. 1 star is too much.
on 3 April 2000
It's good that this type of film is still being made about a conflict that will very soon have no eye-witnesses remaining. It's a fantastic character study of innocence and bravery in the trench, as well as the ineptitude and incompetence of the High Command during the Battle of The Somme in 1916.
I watched this film yesterday, thought about it all evening, dreamed about it all night and still can't shake it off.
Don't expect an all-action film, which in itself would be disrespectful of the actual battle and men who fought in it. Prepare yourself for an engrossing and well acted film, made all the more enveloping because as the viewer you know exactly what the outcome will be...
on 13 February 2001
I looked forward to seeing this film immensely but was teribly disappointed by its lack of atmoshere. As someone obsessed with the First World War I am normally moved to tears simply by the sight of a poppy but this film somehow managed to leave me cold. Set during the days prior to the first day of the battle of the Somme, it refers to the immense bombardment of thousands of shells upon enemy lines referred to as just 400 yards away, yet the falling of these shells sounds as gentle as distant thunder as the troops whisper to one another. The trenches and uniforms are clean and dry, food is so plentiful the soldiers can afford to be picky, the soldiers do not scratch, 'chat' for lice, write home, or sing... Okay, perhaps this film is striving to avoid the cliches of WW1 and of course no-one expects such a film to embrace documentary accuracy, but for me these men portrayed were unrecognisable as products of their era. The acting hardly helped, with indistinguishable working class lads and upper-class stereotypes, with only the sergeant eliciting any sympathy. Overall the film reminded me of a one act stage play written for a sixth form project. Feeble, minimally researched and no fitting epitaph for the men who endured the stinking, filthy, bloody hell that was the Somme.
on 9 March 2001
This travesty of a film about the 48 hours leading up to the first day of the battle of the Somme fails in all areas. The casting of Paul Nicholls, once again playing the sweet and innocent wide eyed boy, is an absolute disaster. We have every possible stereotype in the platoon, from the loud mouthed arrogant cockney to the thinker, a soldier who tries to analyse everything that is happening around them, they are, of course, led by a 'windy' drunk of an upper class twit in the guise of an officer.
...when one considers that the bombardment that preceeded the opening of the battle was the most devastating that had been seen to date in that war, we barely hear a shell burst during the whole of the film. The soldiers are strangely clean, as is the trench they inhabit, and can anybody tell me why they are in a forward advance trench when they are supposed to be in the third wave of the attack? THe great war advisor, should be shamed at this appalling rubbish. The crowning glory of the film is when they attack over beautiful green fields, unscarred by the heavy bombardment that had been going on for 7 days, absolute rubbish. The only good point in the film, is a fine performance by Daniel Craig as the Sergeant, but this sadly, cannot save an absolute turkey of a film, which looks more like a school play.
on 7 March 2012
This is a no holds barred film of life in the trenches just before
the Battle of the Somme - 1916 it is frank and brutal. Daniel Craig
plays a powerful role before he was famous for Layer Cake and 007
Paul Nicholls now in Law and Order and Danny Dyer are good in this
Well worth a look
on 23 November 2009
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.