Deathwatch

  • 2002
  • 1 HR 34 MIN
  • NR
  • Horror, War

War is literally hell in writer-director Michael J. Bassett's breathtakingly photographed fright flick/anti-war polemic hybrid, but it's seriously undermined by his clumsy handling of the supernatural twists. 1917, the Western Front. A British platoon comes under enemy fire and a group of soldiers gets separated from their unit. Lost in thick fog, they...read more

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Reviewed by Robert Pardi
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War is literally hell in writer-director Michael J. Bassett's breathtakingly photographed fright flick/anti-war polemic hybrid, but it's seriously undermined by his clumsy handling of the supernatural twists.

1917, the Western Front. A British platoon comes under enemy fire and a group of soldiers gets separated from their unit. Lost in thick fog, they stumble onto an almost-abandoned German trench and kill almost everyone inside; their sole captive speaks no English, but his stark terror speaks louder than words. The odd thing is, it's not the soldiers he's afraid of. Squadron leader Captain Bramwell Jennings (Laurence Fox) views the location as a signature victory that must be secured until reinforcements arrive, leaving his men to pitch camp, keep and eye on their captive and try to figure out why the Germans all but abandoned the strategically located trench. Sixteen-year-old Charlie Shakespeare (Jamie Bell, in his first post-BILLY ELIOT role), who lied about his age to enlist and is beginning to realize he's in over his head, treats the prisoner fairly while trigger-happy Thomas Quinn (Andy Serkis) is itching to kill him. They soon have bigger problems: Camouflaged by mud, enemy soldiers detach themselves from the gray walls and attack in zombie fashion. Private Starinski (Kris Marshall) is lured away by voices and strangled by animated barbed wire. Even bible-thumping Anthony Bradford (Hugh O’Conor) succumbs to the Godless menace, becoming possessed by unseen evil and shoots a soldier who tries to desert. The surviving soldiers turn on each other with increasing ferocity and after Jennings goes mad, the men are at the mercy of the trenches, whose walls literally run red with blood.

Bassett deserves half a salute for Twilight Zone-ish wallow in WWI misery, which works up some creepy atmosphere between scenes of dehumanizing combat. But the spook show element ultimately seems simultaneously ghoulish and hokey, and the pacifist moral is hammered home with blunt obviousness.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: War is literally hell in writer-director Michael J. Bassett's breathtakingly photographed fright flick/anti-war polemic hybrid, but it's seriously undermined by his clumsy handling of the supernatural twists. 1917, the Western Front. A British platoon c… (more)

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