Deathwatch

Year: 2002
Director: Michael J. Bassett
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0286306/

Rating:

Review:
I happened across this movie while browsing Netflix and I was instantly taken by the concept: a group of British soldiers take a German fortification and encounter the supernatural.  That’s not an uncommon theme, but what was uncommon was that this movie is set during World War I, not World War II.  No Nazis this time, no men in black trenchcoats and vague references to occultism.  Instead we get a spooky, effects-light story about men who either may be dead or may be going insane.

The story is fairly straightforward.  The survivors of a British advance stumble through a fog and wind up at a German trench fort.  They kill a couple of Germans, capture one, and discover the rest of the men in the trench are already dead; apparently they killed each other.  As the movie progresses, the Brits are slowly driven into a state of panic by strange noises in the night and weird apparitions.  One by one they start dying.

One of the outstanding performances in this movie comes from Andy Serkis, known to most as Gollum/Smeagol from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  In Deathwatch he plays a mentally unbalanced soldier who collects trophies from dead Germans and revels in violence and death.

The movie leaves the ending open to interpretations.  Perhaps the men were dead and this was purgatory, or maybe they really were feeling the effects of toxic gas.  Another group of soldiers arrive just after the last survivor leaves, indicating that the cycle is going to begin again.

There were a few longer stretches where the movie wasn’t entirely pacing well, and the lack of subtitles for the German character, while meant to keep you guessing, was more annoying than suspenseful.  It was still a worthwhile movie, light on the gore (there is some, but nothing major) and light on the special effects (some creeping barbed wire and some blood-red ghosts), with a good plot and good acting.

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