Journey’s End is the story of C-company as it arrives to take its turn in the front-line trenches in northern France led by the war-weary Captain Stanhope (Sam Claflin). A German offensive is imminent, and the officers (Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham Tom Sturridge) and their cook (Toby Jones) distract themselves in their dugout with talk of food and their past lives.
Stanhope, meanwhile, soaks his fear in whisky, unable to deal with his dread of the inevitable. A young new officer, Raleigh (Asa Butterfield), arrives to further Stanhope’s dread. Directed by Saul Dibb from the play by R.C Sherriff, with screenplay by Simon Reade.
Scannain recently caught up with director Saul Dibb to talk about the film, which is out in Irish cinemas on February 2nd.
Q. Were you influenced in any way by the WWII films such as Dunkirk which came out this year?
Saul. No not at all actually. The thing is when you’re actually making a film you’re never really aware of what other stuff is coming out. And I guess we were shooting at the same time. So, no that wasn’t in my thinking.
Q. You got a great cast together there – with Tom Sturridge, Toby Jones and Robert Glenister. Was it hard to get these actors?
Saul. Sam Clafin (Stanhope) was keen to do it for a long time. Actors just really want good roles. Once you get the first couple, Paul Bettany you know…He felt he could bring something to the role of Osborne. Once we had those two, once we sent the others the script, and they saw who was also involved, they came on board. We got the cast together very, very quickly. And I think that’s about the strength of the material. R.C. Sheriff (the writer of the original play and co writer of the book it came from) and Simon Reade (Dibb’s screenwriter) did such a good job of condensing it down. It was the most straightforward project I ever had.
Q. Is Robert Glenister (the Colonel) a similiar type of actor to his brother Philip (Ashes To Ashes, Living The Dream)
Saul. I couldn’t say between the two. But, yeah Robert was brilliant in that role. It’s very easy to demonise the higher end officer class. These people were at the top end of the chain of command. It’s the structure of the army and it’s very easy not to like them. But I love the way he played that role, and he didn’t play him in the obvious way a lot of people might have approached it.
Q. These kind of war films seem to resonate deeply with young actors of recent generations. What do you feel about that ?
Saul. Yes, well it’s probably two things. One is that interest in life lived in extreme circumstances and war situations are some of the most extreme you could be unlucky enough to find yourself in. But I also think it’s dealing with very real situations and you are very often aware that they are based on real events and people have gone through these things. You can’t take it lightly. You’ve got to do justice to the people who’ve been in it. We did a lot of work with people who have been in recent conflicts, and the knowledge they got from them, but also the knowledge that they would eventually be showing the film to these people made them put everything into it.
Q. How did you get the rights to the play?
Saul. It was really hard for the producers actually. The play had been adapted once in 1930 and then the rights remained within the Hollywood studio for the next ninety years. So it took them a long time to get the rights back to Britain, to allow them to adapt the play. That was long before I got involved with the project. So it took a long time for the producers to do that.
Q. About war in general…do men have an instinct to go to war? How do you feel about that?
Saul. Yes, I know what you mean. Obviously the instincts that underlie…men and women are deep and complex and are not just surface things in peacetime, in the world we live in. But, I for one, have no instincts to go to war, nor for my children to. Y’know the young guy, Raleigh, in the film (Asa Butterfield) was excited to go to war, because he thinks it’s heroic to fight. He realises bloody quickly that it’s hell. It’s an awful, awful place where you do awful things, see awful things and see awful things happen to the people you’ve come to know and love. If there is that heroic element, I think it’s very quickly tempered by the realities of it.