Journey's End (R)
Osborne's men call him "uncle," but he's less avuncular than maternal toward the soldiers. He tells them stories about gardening with his family and pretending with his children that there was no war. In the minutes before an ill-conceived raid, he insists on the same temporary pretense with a frightened new officer, a small moment to savor being alive. This warmth is a gift of Bettany's, a thread connecting most of his characters, perfectly deployed here.
The daylight raid is an opportunity for director Saul Dibb to illustrate the insularity of the officer class from the troops. Ordered to execute the mission before 7 p.m., Capt. Stanhope knows it's because the colonel wants the results in time for dinner; he can barely conceal his rage. But his blasts of fury are matched by explosions of empathy for his troops. Claflin projects pain and heartbreak, and surgically excises Stanhope's defenses through the film's third act. Though set at a specific moment in time, the film could be about terminal cancer patients or condemned prisoners, a deeply felt catalog of the behaviors of men who know they're about to die.