BFS Video // 1999 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // May 6th, 2011
The Somme, July 1, 1916.
I know World War II gets most of the ink and Vietnam is typically looked at with the most sympathy, but man if I don't get all queasy when conversation shifts to World War I. For my money, this war was the most insane of the 20th century. We're talking about thousands of soldiers hanging out in trenches and then charging headfirst into machine gun fire wearing only colanders on their heads. Brutal and bloody and hugely depressing.
Sort of like The Trench. I'll stop short of labeling it a complete cluster-F, like the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest day in British military history and the backdrop for the film. A bunch of guys do cluster around each other, though, as this is essentially 90 minutes of young actors walking through a trench set and huddling and talking to each other.
For the grunts, you have Billy and Eddie MacFarlane (Paul Nicholls and Tam Williams), teenaged volunteers who find themselves pulled into the back-and-forth BS that springs up when you put a bunch of bored, terrified soldiers in a culvert as bombs go off in the distance. Higher up the ladder is Sergeant Winter (Daniel Craig, Quantum of Solace) and his confidant Lieutenant Harte (Julian Rhind-Tutt), two officers grappling with the approaching reality.
Eventually these characters come together in the last five minutes for the event that we've known was coming since the opening titles: the trench run. Three guesses how that turns out.
The known outcome proves to be a double-edged bayonet: 1) the film takes its time fleshing out the characters, making the inevitability of the upcoming tragedy that much more of an emotional punch to the testicles, but 2) there's a chance that many viewers -- like myself -- won't make that investment, knowing that naught but a meat shredder awaits.
Also, The Trench will likely test your fidgetiness. The entire film literally takes place in a giant trench and is made up entirely of men talking to each other; it could have easily been mounted as an off-Broadway play. Whether you doze off or glue yourself to the proceedings will depend on how much you buy into the characters.
Meanwhile, it appears this DVD slipped into a wormhole, transporting it from 1998 to 2011. The quality is miserable, starting with a laughably dated front end menu, a full frame transfer that looks like it was lifted straight from the BCC and one of the worst audio mixes I've ever heard. Those bombs in the distance sound like someone pouring Gatorade on a space heater.
Too much of a grind. And the DVD is pathetic. Consider yourself
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BFS Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episode