Few films in comparison to the number of those examining other armed
human conflicts have provided a look at the hopeless blood soaked, mud
clogged trenches of the First World War and fewer still have lent voice
to the courage, will and love for their fellow soldiers of the men who
followed without question orders which amounted to voluntary mass
suicide in a hell scorched land far from the blessed sight of their
Johan Earl and Adrian Powers have in 'Forbidden Ground' crafted the viewer such a window into one of the darkest periods of the 20th century. Their film movingly throws us into the trenches of the British Army and its portrayal of the raging machine of war as it grounds young terrified men into its only product - something much different than they were before, alive or dead. The film seizes the senses and raises tension from scene to scene.
The plot forwards the stories of two British married couples; the men at war while the women walk trancelike, waiting through the motions of a special hell of their own for word that their spouses still live. The two story lines unfold against the backdrop of their individual struggles for survival and preservation of sanity which tragically become more difficult when their lives intersect. Surrounding them all is the War and distance, time and pain of absence.
Sergeant Major Arthur Wilkins played by Johan Earl and Corporal Richard Jennings played by Martin Copping are men hardened and desensitized as they are ruined and broken by their years in the maw of combat. Both are fair, natural leaders who care for the men they command, but they've lost their identities, they've forgotten what their lives were like before the War began. Indeed, the surreal daily ballet of carnage their lives have become leaves them with weakening connection to the women they married and eventually sees them becoming brothers in arms trapped in a situation neither will ever completely escape.
Grace Wilkins, wife of Arthur played by Denai Gracie and Eve Rose, fiancé or wife of Corporal Jennings are the ones their men left behind. Nightmares of Arthur's rejection of her upon his return plague Grace, and for aid with the condition she faces which could hurt her husband more even than the terrors of war, she feverishly seeks aid and finds its only source in Eve. Eve has suffered her man's absence as much as Grace, and in so genuinely needing to aid her causes irrevocable harm.
The film is a war movie, and it is also a tragic drama which explores the consequences of meetings between average people who find themselves already connected in ways they never could have imagined. The historical accuracy of the period is spot on as are the booming, ground churning scenes of battle of which there are several. For the budget available, the film makers did a great job although the continuity and viewer perception of the size of outdoor spaces sometimes feel askew and not to scale.
'Forbidden Ground' is a gritty, visceral war film wrapped around a touching story driven by characters with many shades of depth. Their reactions and solutions to the horrible situations they find themselves in is compelling and this viewer found himself only wishing they could get through it all and have the opportunity to heal, together - reunited at last.
I highly recommend 'Forbidden Ground' to the fan of war films as World War I remains a blemish on history mostly glossed over by popular fiction. The period equipment, weapons and dress on the battlefield and off are well reproduced, and the actors who portray the interesting characters inhabiting this study of the chilling effects of war on its victims - war makes all of us its victims - are worthy of the viewers time and praise. For most every other mature moviegoer the film is also a worthwhile watch: the tragically intersecting fates of these characters will reach you on some level.
When an allied charge on the German lines goes horribly wrong, one man finds himself stranded in No Man's Land. Reuniting with two other survivors, together they must help each other as they charge into the unknown across the muddy wasteland as the Germans quickly hone in on the desperate trio. Tensions rise between the soldiers as they are surrounded by explosions of grenades with the constant rattle of machine guns in their ears. Time is running out as they make their way back over enemy lines as an impending attack could soon take them out.
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