BBC3’s OUR WORLD WAR (2014), a three-part anthology miniseries about WW1, dramatizes the experiences of British soldiers based on war records and firsthand recollections. While a bit uneven, two of the episodes are amazing, very human portrayals of what warfare was like 100 years ago.
Again, this is an anthology series, telling three separate stories set during the Battle of Mons, Battle of the Somme, and the Battle of Amiens. As the stories are based on what actually happened, the events don’t follow a neat plot or character arc, defying expectations and achieving great authenticity. What they all have in common is that men bond during war, that a struggling nation will openly do anything to achieve victory, and that war is hell.
The first episode captures the British Fusiliers encountering a massive German attack at Mons. The episode is likeable but doesn’t seem to find its theme or footing. The director amply uses modern devices, such as a modern score, body cam to follow a runner relaying messages, and overlay maps depicting the enemy forces. These anachronisms generally work, though the body cam was unnecessary and jerked me out of the story. Still, I was intrigued to keep watching.
The second and third episodes are fantastic. The second episode deals with a soldier who signed up to fight and ends up assigned to kill somebody from his hometown in a firing squad. The story is split evenly between him debating his chaplain, who is far from a straw man and makes very reasonable points about what it takes to win, and fighting in a horrific battle. The third episode is by far my favorite, about the crew of one of the first tanks used in battle at Amiens. The tankers have to brave artillery shells, deadly fumes, a faulty engine, and the moral brick in the face that is the horrors they’re unleashing on the Germans with these new and advanced weapons.
If you like military action films, I encourage you to give this a go, but maybe start with episode 2, then 1, then 3 for a big finish.