Journey’s End review: The human cost of war

November 9, 2018


Journey’s End is an anti-war film, designed to show the reality of life in the trenches and the human cost of conflict.

With Remembrance Day looming, this thoughtful film, based on a 1928 play, has much to teach a 21st century audience.

Set in northern France in March 2018, with a German offensive imminent, Allied officers Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin), Lieutenant Osborne (Paul Bettany), Second Lieutenant Hibbert (Tom Sturridge) and their cook Private Mason (Toby Jones) are joined by a young new recruit fresh from training school, Second Lieutenant Raleigh (Asa Butterfield).

Stanhope is a tortured soul, haunted by the reality of war and the responsibility of caring for his men. He numbs his pain with whisky, which just adds to his mental health deterioration. Hibbert shows signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, while Osborne is Stanhope’s kind confidant, called ‘Uncle’ by all, who alone can stop the captain from descending into a complete breakdown. 

Raleigh’s arrival reminds Stanhope of the stark difference between trench life and what used to be his normal civilian life, and this also affects his ability to cope.

Mundane conversations and jokes about food with Mason are some of the ways they cope with the horror of war.

The film brings viewers into the trenches with these men, giving a glimpse of what it must have been like to go through this horrific experience.

This could not be called a light or happy film. Instead, it is a salient reminder of what war does to people. But in the midst of this gloom we see wonderful examples of compassion as each man tries to care for the others, to make this journey more bearable. An interesting side point is that the British veterans’ mental health support service, Combat Stress, was involved in the making of the film.

Anyone who has served in a war zone will identify strongly with Journey’s End and its depiction of the futility and tragedy of war.


+ The powerful message of the human cost of war


- Violent war scenes and strong language


Tags: Salvation Army Australia

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Vol. 139, No. 14 // 11 April 2020

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