DEATHWATCH IS A MUST WATCH
December 19, 2002
IF you're sensitive to confined spaces, think mud's only fit for improving your complexion, and believe war is glorious and necessary, then this is not the film for you.
Set amidst World War I in 1917, it tells the tale of a company of soldiers who get lost in the morning fog after going over the top one night.
Exhausted, injured and disorientated, they come upon a deserted German trench and make camp in the dug-out's maze.
But they're not alone and little by little they succumb to an evil lurking in the German trench beyond the guns, grenades and gas they are used to fighting against.
The cast is supreme - Jamie 'Billy Elliot' Bell is on top form for one so young.
He plays under-age soldier Charlie Shakespeare who is the least 'army barmy' among them but turns out to be the most courageous.
While his superiors Hugo Speer, who plays a sergeant, army medic Matthew Rhys, and Hans Mattheson, add to the lusty band (surely there can't be this many good-looking soldiers in one company) who gradually get consumed by madness, evil, cowardice and despair.
Ofcourse, you could take this film literally, as a straightforward horror flick, but read the motifs carefully and there are underlying messages about the importance of a fighting human spirit, having the courage of your convictions, and never giving in to the malice around you.
The flick is not for the easily depressed - it's full of grey mud, black night, rain, and rats - the most 'colourful' part is the blood. But then the horror of war was never going to be fluffy.
The direction of first-timer Bassett is, at times, a little bit sloppy and the script a tad cheesy in parts, but on the whole Deathwatch is a very enjoyable ghost story - and I can't wait for his next stuff if this is the taste of things to come.
The plot is gripping - you don't notice the movie's two hour running time, the acting is compelling (it's great that new faces get a look-in), and the film's deadly important core message needed to be said.
For a gritty drama with depth, action, psychological thrills, and a talented cast that is also easy on the eye (surely no man can look bad in a military greatcoat), Deathwatch must be seen to be believed.