People like to fantasize soldiers going into war as brave, strong warriors who will triumphantly win the war and gain glory. There is no talk of PTSD, fear or any type of weakness because those who start the wars want people to join. By joining the fight these soldiers are adhering to the selfish needs of the higher ups. This movie explores the darker side of war. It accurately and realistically illustrates what a soldier really goes through. Instead of focusing on the fighting itself (in fact it only shows about twenty minutes of fighting), it shows the fearful wait of the unknown.
The movie starts out at the end of the Great War: the spring of 1918. Company C had to be on watch at the front line in wait of the approaching Germans’ attack. The three main characters are Oswald, Raleigh and Stanhope. Oswald is an officer to whom the men look up to because he acts as the father figure and encourages the men to keep their spirits high. Raleigh is a young man of around twenty years old who is positioned as a new officer of Company C. Stanhope is the officer in charge who is also admired by the men of the company. On top of this he is close to the other two main characters. While waiting for the Germans to attack Stanhope is commanded to send twelve men to go on a raid to capture one of the Germans in order to get information on the attack at hand.
Instead of the movie portraying the gloriousness of war it instead showed how the men were suffering. Most of these soldiers were in their early twenties. Oswald notices this and says that he is grateful that he was able to experience life before the war whereas these young men have only experienced war. These young men most likely came into war hoping to bring honor to their country and were excited to do so. This is portrayed in Raleigh’s character. He has not gone through years of war like many others, instead it is his first time and when he finds out that he is part of the raid he gets excited unlike the other men because they know that they will most likely die since they are not new like him. However, as time goes on all of the young men realize that there is more of a chance of death than survival. One of the men in particular, Hibbert, who is another officer has completely given up and even welcomes death in order to escape the harshness of this life. His character is the epitome of weakness. He even goes mad out of fear. His commanding officer has to constantly force and encourage him to lead the men in war.
Stanhope is an interesting character because he appears weak due to him constantly drinking whiskey. He does this whenever he is afraid of something. However, there is a part of him that is very strong. Although he is not the stereotypical strong soldier that is usually portrayed in books and movies, he realistically shows his strength by not giving up and encouraging his men to continue fighting even though he knows that he and all his men were sent out to die for nothing. He ends up losing two people that he loves, Oswald and Raleigh, and ends up sobbing which would seem as something weak. However, it is important to show this because men can never be strong all of the time.
This movie really pulls at your emotions. I truly admire how the film spent most of the time illustrating the fear and anxiety these men felt and what they lived through at a day to day basis. The trenches were terrible living conditions for these men and there were even jokes made throughout the film of how terrible the food was. One part of the movie that had a major impact on me was the seven minutes before they had to make the raid. Both Raleigh and Oswald were extremely fearful yet they tried to forget what was about to happen by talking about their past lives. The actors did an amazing job portraying that emotion and it, in fact, made me nauseous and fearful too knowing that they may not make it back alive. Both men end up dying at different times in the movie. Although they are my two favorite characters and it pained me to know they died, I do like the fact that the movie again showed the realness of it instead of trying to make it a happy ending. This movie showed that it does not matter who you like or do not like. The harsh reality is that they will die and there is nothing to be done about it.