The Trench


          Author and screenwriter William Boyd makes his feature directorial
  debut with
THE TRENCH, a World War I drama that is equal parts
  
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT and GALLIPOLI. While it lacks
  some of the power of those two classic films (directed respectively by
  Lewis Milestone and Peter Weir),
THE TRENCH does have several things
  in its favor, namely standout performances from Daniel Craig and
  Paul Nicholls and impressive cinematography from Tony Pierce-Roberts.

          Set over the course of the two days in late June just prior to the
  Battle of the Somme,
THE TRENCH is a look at the horrors of war and
  the sacrifice of many young lives in the pursuit of honor and victory. In
  focusing on a handful of British soldiers as they confront the realities
  surrounding them, Boyd has crafted a typical "war" movie. Because of his
  background as a fiction writer and scenarist, though, he manages to avoid
  turning most of the characters into stereotypes, although there is some
  predictable behavior.

          Boyd has assembled a range of characters from the effete, alcoholic
  lieutenant (Julian Rhind-Truitt who perfectly captures the cluelessness of
  leadership) to the gruff, teetotalling sergeant (Craig) to the cynical recruit
  (James D'Arcy). There's also the loudmouth who turns cowardly (Danny
  Dyer) and the requisite innocent (Nicholls). The latter has joined the army
  with his slightly older brother (Tam Williams), and the pair share a nicely
  written scene in which both express no regrets over their decision to fight.

          Undoubtedly
THE TRENCH would have worked better on the page
  where Boyd's sense of character could prevail. While the situation
  should be fraught with dramatic possibilities, Boyd tends to focus on
  the mundane: soldiers standing guard, the sergeant trying to maintain
  morale, etc. When something does happen like one of the soldiers
  being hit by sniper fire - it feels inevitable but in more of a predictable
  manner than a hair-raising one.

          The feeling of claustrophobia is captured but all too often the
  audience senses that the action is transpiring on a soundstage and
  not in a real trench. Given the circumstances, the actors (most relatively
  unknown to American audiences) perform admirably. Craig makes the
  sergeant a compelling figure while Nicholls is meant to be representative
  of the innocent. D'Arcy also makes an impression as the mouthy,
  cynical recruit.

          THE TRENCH doesn't add anything new to the genre of war films
  and especially following in the wake of
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN which
  raised the bar on depictions of men in battle, it pales. It is an admirable
  but unspectacular achievement bolstered by its cast.



                       Rating:                 C +
                       MPAA Rating:        NONE
                       Running time:       98 mins.
© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.