Like director and lead actor Paul Gross my grandfather also fought in the Great War and was at Passchendaele albeit in the Labour Corps behind the lines having been badly wounded at the Somme. Frankly I think he and thousands of others deserve better than this unimaginably dreadful film. It really speaks volumes that Lewis Milestone's superb "All quiet on the Western Front" made in 1930 remains one of the only films to properly attempt to capture what the essence of this monumental conflict was about
I have no problems with a Canadian perspective on World War I and indeed this could have been the opportunity for a film of real substance bearing in mind Canada's sacrifices throughout the period and Gross's undoubted passion for his subject matter. Alas what we have here is a Director who wants to make some sort of triptych of "A river run through it", "Legends of the Fall" and the excruciatingly poor "Pearl Harbor" and unsurprisingly turns this into a disastrous concoction not worthy of a TV movie. As a actor Gross's performance seeks subtlety but ends up like a bad case of trench foot and the plot of the film is more rancid than Passchendaele mud. The final battle scene does start at one point to explore the sheer misery of the conditions but then degenerates into some kind of ridiculous crucifixion theme that so preposterous as to be laughable. Indeed Gross rescue attempt requires the viewer to believe that the many Germans in the trench system he runs at are possibly the worst shots in military history.
Someday a great director will capture in a film the essence of what the BBC managed to capture in their unparalleled 1964 series the Great War. Similarly Sebastian Faulks sold the film rights for his brilliant bestselling novel "Birdsong" some 16 years ago and since then numerous directors have come and gone but as far as I am aware no film is in sight? There must be a great film somewhere yet to be made that will do justice to the subject matter of the Great War. Passchendaele is emphatically not it.
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