Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Paul Nicholls, Daniel Craig, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Danny Dyer, James D'Arcy
Director: William Boyd
Genres: Drama, Military & War
Stuck in their putrid, claustrophobic trench, 17-year-old Billy Macfarlane and his mates desperately try to distract themselves from what is rapidly approaching ? by whatever means necessary. Only a short time ago, these b... more »
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A Great Disappointment
R. A Forczyk | Laurel, MD USA | 04/17/2003
(2 out of 5 stars)
"The first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 - the bloodiest day in British military history - deserves a detailed portrayal on film. Unfortunately, The Trench is not that film. The Trench is a standard "small group" portrayal of a British infantry platoon in the forward trenches during the three days leading up to the British attack. As films in the war genre go, this film is not very original and even hackneyed at times. Indeed, the film's ending is reminiscent of Gallipoli with Mel Gibson, although not as well done. The film also has basic problems with character development, plot evolution and historical background. Overall, this film is passable if you have a great interest in the First World War (but you will likely be let down) but quite boring and even incomprehensible if you do not. Unfortunately, the director of The Trench did not feel that character development is particularly important and the viewer is presented with a bunch of stock characters that never gain much definition. The main characters (by type) are: the young, rookie private; the older, experienced sergeant; the weak lieutenant; the disgruntled soldier; the jerk; and the fat, optimistic soldier. The viewer learns precious little about these characters, other than that they generally interact poorly with each other. Indeed, there is very little indication of friendship, cooperation or comradeship that make a real military unit work. It would have been nice to get some background on where these troops come from and how much combat experience they had, but the director almost presents them as ciphers. One of the more interesting aspects of the Battle of the Somme was the character of the British "Pals" battalions, formed from tight social groups like rugby teams or clerks back in England. A "Pals" battalion would have been much more interesting than this near-dysfunctional team. The plot is also a major problem with The Trench because there is so little of it. Most of the film focuses on the 72 hours prior to the attack and is thus anticipatory in nature. While there is one small night raid into No Mans Land, a brief artillery bombardment and a sniper attack, much of the film is quite slow. Indeed, the director wastes an incredible amount of time on two ridiculous but inter-related subjects: a stolen pornographic postcard and the young private mooning over an Irish waitress whom he met briefly before shipping out. Clearly, the director has no idea how to sequence a dramatic film and he appears to stuff anything handy - however absurd - into the cracks. Furthermore, the director is unable to bring out the kind of tension that exists prior to a big attack - which Gallipoli did so well. Even the "big" attack at the end is a major disappointment. A&E's "Lost Battalion" last year had for more convincing scenes of trench warfare than "The Trench's" limp attack at the end. We see perhaps 50-60 troops marching across a green meadow that lacks a single shell crater, uphill (!), against a German line that seems to consist of a single row of barbed wire. Apparently, there wasn't much budget for extras, location or special effects. Given that this was the largest single attack ever launched by the British Army, this film's depiction of it appears to minimize a great and tragic event. Instead of seeing rows of British troops mowed down (and like Spielberg's Private Ryan, this film should have made some effort to show what the attack looked like from the German side), we see individuals go down."
Well-intentioned but inept
Burrobaggy | Newcastle, home of footie | 07/02/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Dr. Glenn W. Briggs | KSC, Florida & Chengdu, China | 06/24/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"The expectations for this film embraced the word, "epic," but all-in-all, this one missed the boat by orders of magnitude. As a film that was likely intended to show the "reality" of life during trench warfare in World War I, it is an utter failure. SO many missed opportunities here! This film came about as close to accurately portraying trench warfare as "Apocalypse Now" did in accurately describing the Vietnam War, which was positively ludicrous. In fact, this film is so bad that it makes the very limited combat scenes and trench warfare vignettes in "Sergeant York" look like an epic."
A terrible waste
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 09/08/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"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 all too apparent all too often.