Deathwatch Could Have Been Better, Still Worth Watching
A fairly bizarre hybrid of war and horror shocker, Deathwatch is an ambitious feature movie debut from Michael J. Bassett. The fact that it grossly overreaches itself puts something of a dampener on what could have been a tense and exciting debut. By the directors own admission there were a surfeit of ideas that didn’t quite all come together as one, nevertheless there is a lot to enjoy here. Be it the demented performance from Andy Serkis or the authentically grimy production design, it is clear that ambition has led to some spectacular failures, and if you can’t fully succeed there really is no better way to fail than spectacularly.
Set in the trenches of WW1, Deathwatch concerns the story of a battalion that get lost in a battle and happen upon a German Trench. After having executed the Germans defending the trench, the battalion begin to unearth strange goings on. Where are they? What are those voices? Why is there a pile of bodies in the trench?
Quickly the film descends into ghost story hokum which fully displays the appealing naivety of the director. Scenes that should have grandeur and depth collapse under the weight of their pretensions but you always get the impression that a whole lot of love and effort have gone into it. It is by no means a dreadful but it is by no means a good film either. Performances are more than adequate, with Jamie Bell proving Billy Elliot was not just a flash in the pan, but the essential elements that could make a project like this fly are sadly absent. A spectacular failure, but a failure nonetheless.
There is an active and aggressive soundtrack featuring plenty of directional surround use and some excellent fidelity. The war time scenes are surprisingly enveloping and the sound is far more engrossing than you have any right to expect. The dialogue is clean and well presented and atmosphere is nicely spread throughout the mix. This was a very enjoyable movie that may surprise those watching Deathwatch for free this with low expectations.
The credit scenes may not be totally comprehensive but they make up for this with a wholly refreshing dose of honesty and modesty. The commentaries are particularly good, with the director being honest and forthcoming about his ambitions and his problems. Most refreshingly of all, he lays most of the blame at his own feet. Honesty like this is very endearing and should filter down to the people who do reviews for total turkeys and treat them like they are works of genius.
The cast and director benefits from an informal and banter led atmosphere, (Jamie Bell is referred to throughout as ‘Bell end) and the one by Andy Serkis, although a bit worthy, is still an interesting. The ‘making of’ footage, deleted scenes and trailers benefit from a similar amount of candour and are all the better for it. This is a set of extras that really entices you to watch Deathwatch online, which is good because you will probably need the help.
This is an average film that aims high and just misses on almost every target, that said its a worthy movie to watch online if you have some free time.