Click here to return to the main site.

DVD Review

DVD cover

On the Front Line
Director's Cut


Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 18 August 2014

Chris Terrill is a well-respected, award winning, documentary film maker, as well as being an anthropologist and author, who worked for many years for the BBC before going independent. His company started to concentrate on more intimate subject matters, with Chris shooting digital footage, without the aid of a crew. In 2007 he made the eight part series Commando: On the Front Line, which has now been released as a director’s cut, extending each episode to around one hour in length.

The documentary follows new recruits to the Royal Marines as they undergo the most rigorous training in the world. Those who succeed, and it won’t be many, are almost immediately dispatched to fight in Afghanistan. The series as a whole blends two elements, the first is the training, which is slowly replaced by footage shot in the war zone.

Chris follows the trials and tribulations of the fifty members of 924 Troop as they are tested both mentally and physically to the limit. In order to be accepted by the troop, and thereby get the most candid footage, Chris underwent the same training. Less than half of the recruits made the final cut, many taking the option to voluntarily drop out with only a small minority being asked to leave.

One of the things which make this a standout documentary is the sheer rawness of it, certainly it would have been edited down, yet Chris is able to retain the truth, pain and joy of the training, well mostly pain. The handheld digital camera works well, even the shaky cam of some of the shots only adds to the drama, especially when the troop he is following in Afghanistan comes under deadly fire, forcing the filmmaker to scrabble down the scree to avoid being shot. This is about as real as it gets.

The three disc DVD set contains not only the original series but also the hour long Commando: Return to the Front Line (2014) where the film maker follows Bertie Kerr, who appears in the original series, back to where he fought, to assess the value of a war which cost the army so many dead. Also included in the set is The 55 year Old Commando (2007) which was made at the same time as Commando and shows Chris himself going through Royal Marine Training, for which he was awarded an honorary beret.

If this is a subject which interests you then you are unlikely to find a better documentary.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

Each of the store links below opens in a new window, allowing you to compare the price of this product from various online stores.