The film “The War Below” directed by J.P. Watts, is based on the true story of a group of miners called the “Claykickers” or “Manchester Moles” who were on the Western Front during World War I. This specialized group of miners was instructed to dig tunnels under No Man’s Land to then eventually bomb the Germans from underneath. The British Army has recruited this group of miners to set off bombs in the tunnels to defeat the enemy in hopes of ending the Battle of Messines. The protagonist in this film is Sam Hazeldine who plays “William Hawkin” in “The War Below”. Sam Hazeldine is also seen in tv shows including “Peaky Blinders” and “Resurrection”. Most of the cast in “The War Below” are not well-known actors in Hollywood, but all the actors have incredible talent that helps portray the story in this film.
The movie begins with William Hawkin going in for a health inspection to be able to draft into the war. Hawkin does not pass the health inspection though due to a crack in his lung which is disappointing for him because he wants to serve his country. This does not keep William Hawkin and the other reject miners from serving in the war though as they are recruited for a special tunnel mission under No Man’s Land. The movie shoots back and forth from the men digging this tunnel and Hawkin’s wife back at home. This could be seen as distracting to some viewers due to the sudden switch from war to the homeland and the switch in emotions associated with each. This leads to the topic of the filming of “The War Below” and how this lower budget production gave a decent story of the “Claykickers”. This film does not do a perfect job at displaying this story of these brave miners but for the lower budget and not-so-well-known actors, it does the job for the circumstances.
The cast of “The War Below” are not well known in the film industry but they make their marks in this movie. It was interesting seeing most of the actors in this film have very great acting abilities, yet I have never seen them in any other popular film. Sam Hazeldine does a great job at being the lead in this movie as he really helps guide the emotion and tenseness of the war within this group of miners. He does not only play a miner as he is also a father in the film, which shows another side of his character. The only complaint I have about the casting is how other than Hazeldine’s character there was not much humanity given to other characters. The audience was not informed much about their backgrounds, current life outside of the war, but we were given personalization of what their emotions were in that exact moment of their screentime. In fact, I felt like every character was just a puzzle piece moving through the motions to get to the end result. This is not the actor’s fault but the fault of the screenwriters and director for not letting the audience dive into each character’s personal narrative. There could’ve been a lot more improvement with this aspect because the actors playing these roles of the characters in “The War Below” have the potential to be great in their abilities.
Overall, this film brings the audience through an emotional roller-coaster that shows the incredible story of the Battle of Messines and the miner group the “Claykickers”. This movie was slightly mediocre but was not terrible in its filming abilities to portray the miner’s journey at the front. With less filming of jumping back and forth from the front to the home front and more focus on the dangerous digging process, this film could’ve been more interesting. The actors that were chosen for this movie did a good job at portraying these characters; more background given to these characters though would’ve personalized the storyline more. “The War Below” did an average job at portraying the specialized group of miners that were at times bittersweet in their journey at the front.