While researching his family history, Sam Claflin discovered that his great-great-grandfather was in a battalion posted to the Battle of St. Quentin--the same battle depicted at the end of the film. See more »
I want to start by saying that this film should not have been given the R rating. There is less fighting than in most superhero movies and no gore. It is, however, very distressing. Because it's very very good. It left me shaken and stayed with me for a long time. I felt it work not only on mental and emotional, but also on sensory level. There is no title and no credits in the beginning. The soldiers and officers start marching towards the front line, the camera focuses on faces, such melancholy in the eyes. And the music comes in - a low string melody that filled my whole being with the sense of dread. It never lets go. The score is absolutely brilliant. As is the acting. Especially the acting. Sam Claflin plays Captain Stanhope in whose PTSD "P" stands for not just "post", but "present", "persistent", "pervasive". The horror he's seen in 3 years at war is compounded by responsibility for those under his command with very little control over their fates. He barely eats or sleeps, but drinks practically all the time and lashes out at those closest to him. Yet it gradually becomes clear that while other officers and higher ups have detached themselves from those underneath them, he can't and won't. His decency and guilt is what's tearing him apart. It's a heartbreaking, riveting, Oscar caliber performance. But to be fair, if there's ever a film deserving a SAG Best Ensemble award, this is the one. Paul Bettany is great as calm and calming Osbourne. Asa Butterfield - perfect as naive Raleigh. Ditto Tom Sturridge as falling apart ex-playboy Hibbert, Stephen Graham as simple, always eating Trotter, Toby Jones as Mason the cook, much more than a comic relief as he witnesses what wasn't meant for him to see, Andy Gathergood as Sergeant Major who has barely any lines, but whose eyes say so much. In fact, everyone's eyes. This is something that cannot be achieved on stage - close ups on the eyes that silently scream what societal norms don't allow to be said out loud.
There is a saying that goes something like this, "When one person dies, it's a tragedy. When thousands do, it's statistics." The power of this film is that when "Spring Offensive" statistics appear on the screen in the end, it feels like 700,000 tragedies.
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