Do not confuse this movie with the William Wellman classic “Battleground”! This movie is an Australian WWI film. It was directed by Johan Earl and Adrian Powers – two directors should equal one Wellman, right? They managed to shoot the movie in only 21 days. It shows. It was originally entitled “Forbidden Ground”. Apparently they changed the title to dupe DVD purchasers.
The movie is set in 1916 France. A typical WWI slimeball officer orders an attack before the preparatory bombardment. It does not go well. The assault uses “Saving Private Ryan” style with hand-held, slo-mo, and even some sensory deprivation. It also has some extreme micro. It is not graphic, but is low budget and poorly staged. The main character is a Sgt. Maj. Wilkins (Johan Earl). He ends up trapped in a shell hole with a shell-shocked buddie who tries to kill him at first. They go out to rescue a badly wounded Tommy and the trio get pinned down in the crater. There’s a lot of blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, a second story arc involves Wilkins’ wife seeking an abortion.
The movie becomes a very slow moving chase film as the trio tries to crawl their way back to their trench while being pursued by an evil, scarfaced German. They are caught between a rock and a hard place as their Lieutenant does not want them returning because they might give away the attack plan. This makes no sense, of course. There is also the upcoming bombardment to worry about. Meanwhile, Mrs. Wilkins finds a nurse who will perform an illegal abortion.
“Battle Ground” is decidedly low budget. The directing is pedestrian and the acting is amateurish. The cast is low rent. The villains are cartoonish. The dialogue is blah, but not terrible. Just boring. In fact, boring would be the best way to describe the movie. It does not help that the boring comes with a healthy dose of maudlin, enhanced by tearjerking music. The cinematography looks like it was done by the A/V club. As far as reality, the movie dispenses with realistic tactics in the belief that the audience will be ignorant of how WWI was fought. Attack before the bombardment? Germans walking around in no man’s land in daylight without taking fire? German patrol tracking three enemy soldiers? Face, enjoy thy slap. The only thing positive I can say is the filmmakers were sincere in their efforts. That is what keeps the grade above an F.
GRADE = D