1914. As The War To End All Wars sends Britannia's young men to early graves, the boys of Y Company discover nothing's quiet on the Western Front. Separated from their regiment, gassed by the enemy and lost in no-man's-land, these dogged soldiers reckon they've struck lucky when they capture a German trench. They reckon wrong.
Sounds familiar? Then you've probably seen The Bunker, a rival British horror-war flick about some Nazis trapped in a haunted, erm, bunker. It's a different war this time around, but the story's pretty much the same with Y Company discovering a strange force lurks in the maze-like trench. Is it real? Or have they died and gone to hell?
Of most interest because it marks the first appearance of Jamie Bell since Billy Elliot, this is, on paper at least, an interesting change of direction. You can see the thinking: by ditching ballet for bullets, Bell's obviously hoping the role of fresh-faced Private Shakespeare will transform him from kiddie star to teen thesp. It won't. Why? Because it gives him very little to do, other than run around trying to look as though he's terrified by the sight of a spectacularly empty trench.
If kudos are to be handed out, they should go to the set designers, who have perfectly captured the rat-infested hellishness of the fields of Flanders. But then it wasn't exactly hard. Take a few thousand gallons of water, apply to your Czech Republic locations and - hey presto - your trenches look authentically muddy.
It's just a shame the rest of the film sinks into the grime. Being up to your eyes in mud is about as frightening as a geography field trip, and writer/director Bassett ends up turning the hell of war into purgatory... for the audience in particular.
Jamie Bell runs for his life; audiences wonder what all the fuss is about. A disappointing horror-war flick that winds up stranded in no-man's-land.
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