It’s March 1918 and the war in Europe has been raging for four long years with no end in sight. While thousands of young British men, some barely out of their teens, are sent to France to fight the Germans, eager young officer Raleigh (Asa Butterfield) is seen proudly making his way to the front unaware of the horrors which await him. Hoping to be reunited with an old school friend, a young army Captain by the name of Stanhope (Sam Claflin), Raleigh pulls in a favour from a relative which will see him sent to join Stanhope and his men as they prepare for an imminent German offensive. Arriving at the squalid quarters, the young man is met by amiable lieutenant Osborne (Paul Bettany), a former school master who the men have nicknamed uncle, and an almost unrecognisable Stanhope who has taken to drinking heavily to numb his anguish and perpetual state of anger.
The rest of the story plays out as the soldiers prepare to do battle in an infantry dugout, counting the hours until the fateful day when the two armies finally meet. Toby Jones does a great job as long suffering infantry cook Mason, pandering to the whims of his upper-class superiors, Mason does his best to please and appease everyone with very limited resources. Dibb manages to inject a subtle, yet essential, commentary about a class system in which working-class men are ruled over by inexperienced upper-class twits like the forever whining Hibbert (Tom Sturridge).
Calflin puts in a commendable turn as Stanhope, he portrays the character with a well judged nuance, whist adding some gravitas to the proceedings. Bettany as Osborne is truly astounding, bringing some much needed tenderness and warmth to a world where all humanity has vanished and all that is left is a distant memory of loved ones.
Dibb and Cinematographer Laurie Rose (High-Rise, Kill List, Free Fire) manage to brilliantly convey what it must have felt like to be crammed in such confined spaces in the middle of a foreign land, miles away from all those who loved and cared about them. With a beautifully mournful score by Natalie Holt and a robust screenplay from Simon Reade, Journry’s End does a great job in sticking to the task at hand without ever feeling the need for a superfluous narrative. A genuinely moving and thoroughly affecting piece of filmmaking, which tells a simple story with honesty and commendable reserve.