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Passchendaele More at IMDbPro »

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95 out of 138 people found the following review useful:

Beneath the surface

Author: doug-697 from Canada
5 September 2008

Passchendaele is part unabashed romance and part horrific and quite graphic war story.

In film World War One has been a neglected war compared to the more morally unambiguous Second World War and the more recent Vietnam War. And films that aren't about American participation are just as neglected. Passchendaele fills that void.

The movie moves quickly and switches between home life and battlefield with surprising ease and effect. I was not bored for a moment of this movie. The movie will make you care about these people when they are at home living their lives and then fear for them at war. While the battle scenes are quite brutal, they are not sensational or exploitive, since to have made them sensational or exploitive would defeat the great effort this movie takes in showing how men had to cope with life after the war and the memories of what they lived through.

Undoubtedly there will be cynics who will decry some moments as contrived or melodramatic, but these are the small-minded who have missed the real emotion of this film. The movie is great entertainment, but there is something going on beneath the surface. This is the first time I can recall a film where the main character is someone who has been both emotionally damaged by the war, but does not succumb to it. I suspect there must be many men coming out of the war who were damaged, but quietly lived with that damage their entire lives. For that depiction alone, this is a great movie.

The movie is not without humour and it has one of the funniest seduction lines I've ever heard uttered by a woman in a movie.

The movie is entertaining, but there's a lot going on and much I haven't mentioned as I don't want to click the spoiler warning. There are scenes I'm still thinking about, which doesn't happen with every movie I see.

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70 out of 95 people found the following review useful:

Excellent film

Author: Laura Fraser from Canada
6 November 2008

Paul Gross' Passchendaele provides a unique perspective of the Canadian effort during the First World War. Those who are expecting just battle scenes will likely be disappointed.

For those looking for character development, some romance, an interesting perspective on recruitment pressure, and yes -- AMAZING battle scenes -- then yes, this movie is for you.

As a Military History student, I had no issues with the historical accuracy of the movie. Paul Gross based the first 5 minutes on his grandfather's story, and the rest is historical fiction. In general, it is an excellent representation of the period, and certainly provides a much more realistic version of the soldiers' perspective on war in 1917 than many other war films out there.

I highly recommend this film.

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62 out of 95 people found the following review useful:

At last...

Author: rps-2 from Bracebridge Ont
31 October 2008

At last a genuine Canadian movie... Calgary is Calgary... The Americans didn't win the battle, didn't even turn up anywhere... There were no Stars and Stripes in every office. Okay, the plot --- a sort of WW1 Saving Private Ryan effort set against the bloody Belgian battle --- is a little far fetched. But the scenes --- both in 1916 Calgary and in the mud and horror of the battlefield --- are as good as those in any WW1 movie I've seen. There are believable characters well portrayed both in the script and by the actors. The effects are superb. The lighting and cinematography are sensitive and creative. And how very impressive that Paul Gross was a triple threat man. He wrote it, he directed it and he starred in it. That totals 300% This is as good as they come.

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57 out of 87 people found the following review useful:

ridiculous plot clichéd ridden film

Author: reynoldh from Canada
8 April 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

On a scale of 1 to 10 I would give this film a –9. The themes are trite, hackneyed, and, frankly, an insult to the memory of all those who served or died at Passchendaele. To begin with, the film has very little to do with that battle. So why call it Passchendaele? The director would have been more accurate to call the film Passion in Dale or Sex on the Battlefield or Something Silly in Passchendaele. If the battle is only a backdrop to the plot, then don't mislead by calling it by the name that immediately invokes the battle. At least the English Patient had the good sense not to be titled El Alamein! I mention the English Patient, which I also disliked, but it is quantum leaps better than this film, which seems a very weak copy. Nurse meets soldier; nurse falls in love with soldier; soldier dies before nurse. Mr. Gross have you every heard of, read, or seen War and Peace? Perhaps the film should have been called Mr. Gross Goes to War since the director is front and center of this film. Of course sergeant Gross, a.k.a. Michael Dunne the protagonist is a hero, but not just any hero. Rather, he is a Canadian hero, heck no, not just Canadian, but an Albertan hero! You know what I mean, the silent cowboy type, man of action and integrity, but heck, no hick here, he can also wax poetic when talking about the land before his girl. And oh yes, you have to have horses here, even at the end, the riderless horse, no doubt about to carry our hero's soul to heaven. We see his noble side: helping his girl kick the drug habit, after all, got to make the film relevant you know, and it seems he does it all in one night, because if the scene was meant to portray several nights or weeks I sure didn't get it. Besides, since the evil English major already had his eye on the good sergeant, don't you think he would have known? Oh yes, clichés. The spit and polish bombastic English major, the pukka, pukka type who will be shown up as incompetent and a coward. He stands in total contrast to our down-to-earth Hoser true-man-of-action hero. We had the same representation in the film about the Canadian ascent of Everest: spit and polish but all hot air. Well, guys give it a break. When you repeat the same path in literature or film you become guilty of thinking in clichés! But let's get back to our hero, Mr. Gross, a.k.a. sergeant what's-his-name. He can't be perfect now, can he? He has to have a flaw. You know the old story about heroes having a fatal flaw. Well the good sergeant's flaw is that he shoved a bayonet through the head of a young German asking for mercy. Oops, you know he will have to pay for that. The clichés in this film are nothing compared to the idiocy of the plot. Boy meets girl. Girl says No. Then Maybe. Then Yes. But there is a hitch; she has a brother, who in his mixed up passion of lust-love, hatred and patriotism is tricked into signing up by his scheming future father-in-law. So off he goes and our good sergeant goes off to look after him as he had promised his girl. Well you know what is going to happen. He will save the boy's life and die. Yes die, because that is how that clichéd story goes. But wonder of wonders, it's not just the sergeant who turns up by the side of the boy; the baddie English major also turns up at the front in the same battalion because he wants to get back at the sergeant! At this point, ladies and gentlemen, we have flown the realm of common sense and entered the never-never coo-coo land! An over-aged major who served in the Boer War 18 years earlier, he decides to give up the comfort of his recruiting job to get back at our hero! But wait, it gets even better. The nurse also turns up at the battle. What incredible coincidence! Well, you know what's going to happen next. They just have to have sex, and of course, it's the nurse who initiates it because, after all, our upright, ethical, cowboy is above such things. Director Gross seems to like flying bodies, so the typical battle scene is one of bodies flying about like men on a trapeze. But that is nothing compared to the tour de force: the wounded brother hanging like a Christ on the cross on the German line, and, of course, our hero has to get to the boy to save him. But just to make sure that the audience understands the scale of justice and the stupidity of war, Director Gross has to hit us over the head with the symbol: shell shocked or wounded young Germans, kids in fact; remember, the good sergeant killed one in the heat of battle. So now we are primed for his death, but not before he heroically carries the boy back on his makeshift cross. Our hero is not only a man of integrity and tough, but he is super strong! He's been shot – serious enough to die from his wound but he still manages to carry the wounded boy back through the mud, the German officer in charge having given the nod – ah yes, we must also have nobility in the battle front. I forgot to add, my friend mentioned that in the midst of trench warfare, mud, rain and blood, Sergeant Gross had wonderfully white teeth! But then, he is an Albertan super hero.

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35 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

Below average. Expected much better.

Author: tblackwo from Canada
26 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I wanted to like Passchendaele so much!! I was so excited when I finally rented it and I don't think I've ever been so disappointed in a movie in a long time.

3/4 of the movie is a really forced, non-believable, way too over the top love story, with just terrible characters. (The officer who runs the recruitment station tops that list) Its the type of thing I expect from Canadian day time TV.. not the type of thing I was expecting from a supposed critically acclaimed movie.

I wasn't going into this expecting a non-stop action war film, I was just expecting a great movie based on the war! And I really didn't feel like it was. Other than the name of the film and the brilliant (albeit way too short) battle at the end I just don't see this as the tribute Canada's bravest deserve.

I think for a Canadian movie, technically it was superb from an effects standpoint. I think this film gets more credit than it deserves simply because of that... when the battle is on the screen, it looks, and sounds amazing, which is something you really don't expect from a Canadian film.

But it has so many moments where you just completely face-palm and say.. oh come on... (the sister/nurse just happens to be stationed at the exact same place as her brother and lover are deployed... he charges straight at the enemy trench, and Schwarzenegger style he arrives completely untouched, only to be blown crucifix style onto the wood... the gross' enemy the officer from the recruitment station travels ALL THE WAY TO France, practically into the battle, just to bring him up on some petty charges)

Come on boys, I really thought we had something here that would put Canada on the map. Just a complete disappointment. It takes more than just mentioning Canada to be a tribute to its soldiers. They deserved so much more than this.

I really cant put into words the disappointment Im feeling after watching this film.

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45 out of 67 people found the following review useful:

Wow. Great flick!

Author: cyberscribe from United States
4 February 2009

Wow. Great flick!

Besides being an admitted movie addict, I'm also a retired professional soldier and a combat veteran who's served in multiple theaters of conflict.

I usually find myself quietly disappointed with war movies in general, and their vain, highly stylized, cliché-laden attempts to realistically portray infantry warfare, and high-intensity warfare's effects on soldiers. Film-makers invariably seem to fall far short in their attempts to capture the essence of what war can be (or was) like, and what exposure to it can do to the people involved, both mentally and physically.

To his great credit, I think that in Passchendaele Paul Gross seems to have actually managed to capture a reasonably authentic glimpse into both the nature of such hellish environments and the men caught up in them.

The acting was superb. The performances were so convincing that the notion that I was just sitting watching a movie didn't even occur to me until the credits began to roll by, I was so totally engrossed.

This film was easily one of the best that I've seen in quite some time.

I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for any future films by Paul Gross. Passchendaele stands as an extremely impressive testimonial to his obvious talents.

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28 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

The definitive Canadian war movie has yet to be made.

Author: daveolie from Canada
24 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I really wanted to like this movie. From the buzz I'd heard, I thought this could be a great one. Sorry to say, it wasn't.

On the positive side, the battle scenes were extraordinarily well done. Granted, they were filmed in the grainy, slightly-speeded-up style of "Saving Private Ryan" or "Band of Brothers", but this is an effective style and what today's audiences have come to expect in depicting combat.

I've studied a lot of military history, extensively on WWI, and the film is technically accurate to a very fine degree. The Canadian uniforms are the correct colour, the Germans are accurately shown in a variety of clothing, the weapons are spot on. There are even things that I never thought I'd see in a movie, like accurate repros of German trench mortars. Somebody put a lot of time, effort, and money into getting these things right.

Which is great for the 20 minutes or so of the actual war movie scenes of this "war movie".

And the film "goes there" in ways that most war movies don't. The hero is suffering from neurasthenia, what we now call PTSD. The leading lady is addicted to morphine. These aspects of the story are realistic and commendable.

Sadly, the story sucks. Why do writers feel that war movies (like SPR) have to be written as family dramas? Real war doesn't work that way. All of the Mann's neighbours would have known they were German long before 1917 when their house gets trashed. In spite of getting a doctor's certificate, there's no way David Mann could have got through training and into the front line with his asthma. There's no way young men would attend a recruiting meeting if they had no intention of signing up. Absurdity piles upon absurdity.

The leading lady, Caroline Dhavernas, is lovely to look at, but why on earth am I looking at the leading lady for over an hour in a "war movie"? And she barely cracks a sweat going cold turkey from her addiction. Very pretty; not very real.

In a breakthrough for Canadian movies, the bad guy has an English accent, and he gets killed in the end. Just like American movies. Yay.

But the film finally lost me as Paul Gross did the Stations of the Cross through the mud of Flanders, wound in his side and everything. What on earth was he thinking as he wrote this? I dunno, but "All Quiet On The Western Front" made a much better job of capturing the pathos of war, and that was 78 years ago.

Colour me very, very disappointed.

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60 out of 106 people found the following review useful:

Finally: a Canadian film about Canadian heroes: our soldiers !

Author: Philippe-Bruneau from Canada
19 October 2008

Most of us have one or more great-grandfathers, other relatives or even friends ( I knew a WW1 Veteran as a small child, he was a pensioner with my great-grandmother) who fought with the Canadian Corps in Europe.

It was a brutal & dirty war where our soldiers paid in blood for Canada to be recognized as a nation. Moreover, they got the job done, without fanfare or banners: farm boys and clerks from a colony became the elite fighting formation of the western front.

The film depicts all of the above, the price each paid, in physical and emotional pain, in lives lost and friendships made.

Paul Gross has dome it again. A beautiful movie, without fanfare or banners that says it all, in subtle moments and firm assertions.

Thank you, Mr Gross.

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22 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

20% War movie 80% mumbo jumbo. Horrible Movie overall. Typical Canadian movie trying to be different.

Author: postee from edmonton
2 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I had really high hopes for this movie. The trailers kind of sucked me in. To me it looked like a Canadian war movie, maybe like Saving Private Ryan in realism. There was a flash of love story in the preview. Would it be 80 percent war movie, and 20 percent Love story? Nope, completely opposite, and the love story is bogged down in a "Canadianized" slant, that ruined it for me. They couldn't just leave the nice guy to meet the nice girl. They have to make the nice girl a morphine addict. This is just an example of the rest of the story. Don't get me wrong, i love a good love story (The Notebook!) But not this one. And the whole crucifixion scene??? Unrealistic, out of context, over edited. On the plus side, the scenery around southern Alberta was spectacular.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

show me don't tell me

Author: rdeschene3 from Brockville, Canada
26 October 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I was happy and excited to see a movie about Canadian soldiers in the First World War, but disappointed with the product. That young Canadians volunteered to a squalid life in the trenches, lost injured soldiers to the muddy fields, and had aid stations that operated at a fever pitch without antibiotics or, often, anesthetics -- these all show that there is a story to be told here. A difficult and heart-rending story yes, but certainly a story that can stand on its own. If told deftly.

The makers of this film tell us about so many things they could have more effectively shown. This is a film, not a book, and film is a visual medium so show us what you mean don't tell us. For example, the scene of the doctor in Calgary giving a little presentation describing battlefield wounds and passing around a piece of shrapnel could have been far more effectively conveyed visually on the battlefield. So why only spend 30 minutes in Europe ?

SHOW us why the Germans called the Canadians stormtroopers, and THEN TELL us that is the moniker the enemy bestowed on us. See how this could have worked ?

That there was a romantic interest was something I expected. This is a common device used to show the humanity of people who will later do brutal things. Think "History of Violence". Once again though the film relies too much on little speeches and pronouncements to tell us about their feelings rather than showing people relating to each other by how they treat each other. Vets of the First and Second World War are renown for their reticence, so that 1.5hrs of the movie especially didn't ring true.

The "stations of the cross" scene is some measure of just how far from the reality the film makers wandered. I've heard of the First World War trenches described as weeks of boredom and anxiety punctuated by short periods of shear terror and confusion. To me this movie was weeks of eager anticipation followed by hours of growing disappointment and frustration.

So I guess I'm still waiting for a movie that can really convey the pride, professionalism, necessary brutality and heart-rending emotional aftermath of Canadian soldiers who've seen battle. I guess I wanted a film that made me feel a combination of pride, disgust and grief and this film failed to do so.

I would nominate this film for cinematography, costume, special effects and maybe audio and acting but not screenplay or "best film" certainly. And I don't think more money would have fixed this.

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