The War Below

The War Below

In Theatres: 
Oct 01, 2021
Running Time: 
96 minutes

War movies are a dime a dozen, and oftentimes it feels like we see the same subject matter repeated over and over again, especially if World War I or II are their subject. The War Below hits those notes as it follows a group of soldiers during World War I and like many other war films is based on true events. Where it differs is that these soldiers were miners who dug under the battlefield to get across to enemy lines. It’s interesting enough to warrant watching as it shines a light on these unsung heroes.

At the start of World War I, most British citizens were eager and honored to serve their country and fight against the Germans. Yet despite their willingness to join the military, some men were unable to due to underlying medical conditions. It’s then that Colonel Norton-Griffiths (Tom Goodman-Hill) has the idea to recruit a group of coal miners who initially failed their medical exam to join a special section of soldiers who will dig a tunnel under no-man’s-land directly through the enemy lines and blow them up from below. Not everyone believes in the plan and many other troops don’t view the miners as real soldiers, but they’re determined to serve their country to the best of their ability and complete the mission no matter the cost.

The War Below is at its best when the soldiers are down below in the tunnel making their way inch by inch into German territory. These are miners so they’re in a familiar setting and know what it’s going to take to succeed, and it’s fascinating to just watch them work taking bag after bag of dirt out from the dimly candle-lit tunnels. They’re doing all this while a war rages on above them. I feel like there actually should have been more scenes of them in the tunnels, because when they’re not down there the film tends to get wrapped up in heavy dialogue that drags on. 

A good portion of the film takes place on or below the battlefield, and the film gives off plenty of 1917 vibes as soldiers weave in and out of the cramped and claustrophobic trenches. The set design is great, although I wish the same attention to detail would have been given to hair and makeup. Everyone looks way too clean and proper to be spending their days in the dirt, mud, and filth. The initial victory that the squad has also feels overshadowed and lackluster. Barely anyone acknowledges it before quickly moving on to whatever’s next. This and a few other pivotal scenes feel like they’re downplayed and aren’t given the justice they’re deserved.

The War Below has plenty of heart and does a good job at unearthing these forgotten heroes of World War I. It’s not perfect, but it is nice to see a war movie that’s a little different than the typical fanfare that Hollywood puts out.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook