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written by the co-editor of Personal Eye, Ian Hislop and Nickname Newman and it shows. their love of the characters biting satirical humour in the face of the mud bath trenches of Flanders is plain to see and it works wonderfully. some critics have told that the device of punctuating the drama with faithful sketches taken from articles from the wipers times, got in the method of the story. but surely that is the point, humour in the face of a horrible drama. Chaplin as the sinister ringmaster/MC, finished with ghostly, flaking, pancake create up is brilliant, as is his co-star Rhind-Tutt. and there is a great tiny cameo from Michael Palin as a sympathetic general. the 'Kermode six laugh test' was surpassed early on. oh, and i choked up a couple of times...all in an perfect comedy/drama about the futility of war. wholly recommended.
I can only think that the reviewer who thought that this could have been more like The Hangover has tiny to no knowledge of the First Globe War, allow alone of conditions in the trenches. Maybe diffusing unbearable cases with humour (and much of the humour that emanated from those trenches was now blacker - and bluer - than that portrayed here) is one of those Very British Things. That was certainly brought up in this film, when the contrast was drawn between the Germans' "Hate Song" and the British soldier's humour and irreverence.Personally, I really enjoyed the method that the sketches were shown: much about them was real to the time period and yet they were presented with a touch of the surreal to remind the viewer that what you saw on the screen was only a stylised representation of the written word.I thought the actors were very good; the topics matter bittersweet, and overall it was an perfect representation of a fascinating story. There were one or two moments when I felt that the smooth, sarcastic, off the cuff exchanges between the major characters was a touch too smooth, but overall it fitted the period, the storyline and the method the screenwriters and directors chose to show it.If you don't already know anything about The Wipers Times or about the Trench Warfare of the First Globe Fight then you may, indeed, not play this as much as someone who does have a tiny bit of prior knowledge.
In a globe wherein we are all too often confronted with the tragic waste that is warfare, this heart-rending and thought-provoking treatment of our world's first fight stands tall amidst a cohort of fight movies that glorify fight while trivializing the loss it represents. An whole generation of Englishman were lain down in the mud of the European theater, and while many poets, writers and historians have made much of the tragedy of this affair, several have the courage to satirize it. As only the boys who witnessed its absurdity should say us, this is the relation of Ian Hislop and Nickname Newman, two boys among many who were forced to endure a what was at times a senseless conflict. Their only hope for sanity in an insane case was to cling to that which humanizes us all; our sense of humor.If you have ever considered the pointless nature of large-scale conflict, the tragedy of fight itself, or the despair of the boy as he returns home from the front to a folks who do not grasp the enormity of what he has faced, then you gotta see this film.
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