Shell Shocked by War
Private Arthur Hamp (Tom Courtenay) had been a volunteer when war broke out in 1914 and saw plenty of action in the British trenches at Passchendaele but then one day something snaps within him and he sets about walking home to London. It is how he came to be picked up by the military police and returned to his unit to be court-martialled for desertion. It is also how he comes to meet Capt. Hargreaves (Dirk Bogarde), an upper-class officer, who is assigned to defend him. Initially disliking of the working class Hamp and convinced he is a coward he begins to understand what caused him to snap.
Watching and more importantly reviewing movies can leave you feel guilty when you come across a movie which is rated highly by many but you find yourself wondering what they saw in it that you didn't. It is the situation I find myself in with "King & Country" as whilst from a technical perspective it ticks one box after another, from an entertainment or interest point of view it is slow going and laborious or at least that is how it comes across now, maybe it was different back in 1964.
Now as I said from a technical point of view "King & Country" impresses with a fantastic recreation of the wet, rat infested trenches of WWI. These sets combined with director Joseph Losey's depth of vision makes for a visually impressive movie and one where the atmosphere is tangible.
On the subject of technical point of view it also features two great performances with Tom Courtenay outstanding as Hamp bringing to life the aspect of a regular working class man left shell shocked by what he has witnessed and the loss of those he has served with. It is a very real performance which Dirk Bogarde feeds off with his character transforming as he goes from looking down his nose as Hamp, believing that he a coward to understanding that he is anything but.
The trouble is, and in many ways I expected this, "King & Country" is slow going and not just because it is an adaptation of a play which makes it a wordy affair. It seems even slower than normal with a lot more attention paid to the look of a scene and the detail in the back ground than what is being said. In fact at times you find yourself distracted by the look such as the gaping hole in the back of the room where Hamp is kept under arrest which has water dripping from it.
What this all boils down to is that "King & Country" ends up one of those movies which as a movie fan I appreciate as a piece of movie making but find it also hard work and laborious, even more so than I anticipated due to its stage play origins.