Period piece of post-WW1 soldiers still enmeshed in a nightmare struggle long after the war is supposed to be over.
What happens to soldiers after the last of the bullets has been fired? If you thought that everybody just packs up and goes home than this is an eye opener for you. Soldiers are always the pawns of the politicians and the generals, and this great film illustrates that perfectly.
Most of the film describes the actual shocking and little known events that occurred in 1919, in England, when the troops are waiting to get back to Canada. Viewers will be surprised to see soldiers still training for war on the infamous mud of Salisbury Plain in appalling conditions and cold, one year AFTER the end of the Great War. The tension of men too long away from home, trapped in an army that now has no purpose is palpable. To add to their dilemma, the film portrays the height of the great Spanish Flu Pandemic as it savages the Battalion. The survivors of 4 long years of war are now stalked by death they have no defense for, trapped in feted conditions, the long awaited order to get onto the ships for home never coming. If you add the incredible lack of compassion and common sense governing the High Command you have an explosive mix that propels Canadian troops into one of the blackest and least known episodes in Canadian Military History.
The film is a good portrayal of actual events and should be mandatory viewing for officers entering the profession of arms.
There are two scenes that brilliantly illustrate the problem faced by the troops, personified in the hero Cpl Brill, played by Nicolas Campbell before he became the craggy "Dominic Da Vinci". He's a decorated veteran ordered to an officer's reception, the order inferring he was the guest of honour for his heroic efforts. His mates are understandably proud of their friend, and he's sent off with lots of well plucky advice on how to address the admiring Toffs. The film is excellent at drawing the viewer into the plight of the soldiers, with this scene of the reception building both the character's and our shock at the treatment of men who have endured the unendurable only to be treated so cruelly.
The second scene is of course the climax, vividly portraying a dark and little know but true event that sent shock-waves through both the Army and the Canadian Government back home. From the climax comes the realization that Canadian Veterans were coming home so thoroughly changed by the experience of the Great War that old conventions and rigors of class distinction will not stand. The Veterans are forced to become instruments of social change, in an uncontrolled and violence explosion that predated the social-political strife of the 20's.
Through the true portrayal of soldier's lives at that time, the film does a great job of bringing along the viewer and keeping him entertained. The characterisations are solid, with roles such as Albert Schultz as the frustrated and vain Maj. Bannerman lending drama though what could have been a dry bit of history. The varied emotions of the situation are quickly established and never allowed to dissipate as they build. Excellent drama for those who don't normally enjoy period pieces, and well worth the viewing if you can find it.
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