The Trench

The Trench


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The novelist William Boyd has chosen a well-worn subject for his directorial debut. Trench life during the First World War has been depicted many, many times, most notably in Kubrick's Paths Of Glory. What more can be said about it? Not a lot.

Boyd tells a story of 48 hours before the bloody and ill-conceived Battle of the Somme. He concentrates on a few soldiers of a third-grade platoon, who are in the front line trench as observers and go over the top in the first wave because of an administrative bungle.

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During the waiting period, when the men are restless and bored, being hassled by the sergeant, who has to cope with an ineffective Second Lieutenant, Boyd explores their characters, not in the American way (A Chorus Line) with full-blown confessions, but obliquely through banter and argument. Avoiding inevitable sentimentality - those who are about to die have special concessions in the sympathy store - Boyd allows his actors the freedom to be themselves.

The performances by mainly young unknowns are excellent and the script is the best Boyd has written. As well as humanising the private soldier, rather than caricaturing him with cheeky chappie sound bites, he presents the officer class as knowingly incompetent rather than snobbishly arrogant. The film is directed with confidence and the build up before the big push has genuine tension.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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The 48 hours in the trenches leading up to the Battle of the Somme.
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Director: William Boyd

Writer: William Boyd

Starring: Paul Nicholls, Daniel Craig, Julian RhindTutt, Danny Dyer, James D'Arcy, Tam Williams

Year: 1999

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK, France


EIFF 1999

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