• Unrated, 1 hr. 53 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Paul Gross
    On DVD:
    Nov 3, 2009
  • Alliance Atlantis

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Passchendaele Reviews

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Super Reviewer

June 8, 2010
Passchendaele is one of the worst films I have ever seen. This film is terrible. The film starts off well enough, but ends up being long and boring. This is a terrific example of how not to do a war film. This film probably has about 15 minutes of actual combat fighting. Nothing more. The acting, and script is terrible. I can't believe that some people think that this is a terrific tribute to those brave men who gave their lives so valiantly for the cause of freedom. This film is a stain on their memory, Paul Gross doesn't know anything on how to make an effective war film, and this proves it. A shameful "war" film about one of Canada's finest hours in battle. This film should be remade and should be told by a director who actually knows the source material.
Al S

Super Reviewer

October 11, 2008
An incrediable war drama that has it all, romance, drama, action and amasing characters. A splendid, powerful, deeply moving and unforgettable movie. A bold, passionate, well-crafted and patriotic piece of Canadain film. Director and star, Paul Gross gives an honest, riveting and very dedicated performance and also proves to be a promising and visionary filmmaker. Gross crafts a fearless and tremendous historical epic filled with romance and strong battle sequences. A brave solute to the men who fought in the time of the war. One of the best and most excting war films of it's kind since Saving Private Ryan. It's stunning, thrilling and exhilerating. A spectacular and satisfying character driven story. A masterpiece.
Brian D

Super Reviewer

March 2, 2009
This a sweeping epic of love,courage and faith at the time of world war 1.Yes you may you seen it before but it the key players that keeps this from being just other pearl harbour! It is directed with such passion and fine detail that sweeps you in and then theres the intenes battle sences that are second to none since Saving Private ryan!!All in all an in grossing film that need to be watched and is another slice of history..
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

February 19, 2009
Great Canadian actor, great Canadian story, great moment in Canadian history... and yet, it failed to impress. It was formulaic and a little flat all in all, the love story was a little too predominant and the dialogue was awfully stagy. Melodrama in its worst incarnation. It was kind of like Pearl Harbor, in the sense that I couldn't invest in any of the characters because the writing just didn't feel authentic... ironic, in a way, as a lot of this film comes from the true story of writer/director/star Paul Gross's grandfather.

Passchendaele is well-shot - visually impressive and nice to watch - and that Gross raised the budget to make this film is a Canadian epic in and of itself. Unfortunately, the fruit of his labours falls short of being the Canadian masterpiece it's been trumpeted as.

Super Reviewer

September 17, 2011
In "Passchendaele," Sergeant Michael Dunne(Paul Gross, who also wrote and directed) is the sole survivor of a deadly encounter with German forces in World War I. Waking up in the hospital, he is greeted by the warm face of Sarah Mann(Caroline Dhavernas), a nurse. Returning home to Calgary months later, he is greeted by the less than warm faces of a tribunal convened to decide whether or not he should be returned to France to face charges of desertion. Instead, they decide that he suffers from neurasthenia and transfer him to work as a recruiter under Dobson-Hughes(Jim Mezon). While there, Michael turns down the application of David(Joe Dinicol), Sarah's brother, due to his asthma. He is trying to impress the family of his ladylove Cassie(Meredith Bailey) with his suicidal charm.

"Passchendaele" is a solid antiwar film with a romantic subplot that does nothing to detract from the movie as a whole. As director, Paul Gross reverses the usual tendency of actor-directors by emphasizing the visual over the performances which comes in handy not only in the battle scenes but also in capturing the beautiful Canadian countryside. There are other interesting stylistic choices here like muting the sound at key moments and even cross-cutting between a medical lecture and a love scene which allows for applause at just the right moment. Still, there is just something about Paul Gross on horseback as he makes for a charismatic lead while also breathing depth into his character who has his share of problems and issues.(He's not the only one as it comes out late how oedipal some of this is but don't worry I know a doctor in Vienna who can do something about that.) Those issues involve a meaningless war and how it recruits and churns out soldiers, as the movie also shows off the ugly side of patriotism.
Sean D

Super Reviewer

March 18, 2011
I remember reading about this movie in the paper before it was released. The article focused on the immense time and detail it took to film the war sequences. I showed this to my roommate and we both decided to go see it and take our female neighbours with us.

We went in expecting a war movie. And for the opening sequence, we thought it was just that.

20 minutes later though, we realized we were had. And our neighbours laughed as my roommate and I exchanged looks of "What the hell did we get ourselves into."

I will say this about the movie: the action sequences were very well done. It effectively conveys the muddy hell that was Passchendaele. Also, it shows a side of prejudice rarely discussed: Canadian discrimination towards Germans during World War I and blackballing of WWI soldiers that came home due to the gas attacks.

That warrants half a star.

Other than that, it was "Pearl Harbour" Canadian style. But at least "Pearl Harbour" had Alec Baldwin and the "Doolittle Raids." "Passchendaele" is less about Passchendaele and more of a love story. It is a love story not so cleverly disguised as a war movie.

The script is so cheesy and bad that even James Cameron would say "WOW! This sucks!" Gross sunk $20 million into this movie, you'd think he would have hired a decent screenwriter or some decent actors.

These are two hours of my life I want back.

That being said, I would like to write a response letter to Paul Gross.

Dear Paul Gross,

Fuck you too.

Sean Devine
Curt C

Super Reviewer

November 1, 2008
Billed as Canada's great war movie, Passchendaele spends very little time focusing on the details of this war, but instead the repercussions of war and how it affects the principle characters.The first half the movie is set in Calgary, in the time of war. The second half transports us off to the Passchendaele battle. Both parts are done very well; mind you, the war scenes are moreso the "Ra Ra, look what we Canadians can do" type, However, there are a few issues keeping Passchendaele from being the historical piece it aims to be.

First, the romance. I have no problem with romance in a war movie, but Paul Gross wrote himself some pretty terrible dialogue for these scenes. Secondly, the ending sequence. I don't mind Christian symbolism in a movie but, come on. Seriously. Also the romantic conversation about the painting had my eyes rolled firmly into my head throughout. The ~very~ last scene in the film is powerful.

So, in the end, you get an enjoyable war movie, but not a film which will go down as being historically important as Gross had aimed.

Super Reviewer

February 13, 2009
Not a bad film at all. Little slow, little weak and the action scenes seemed to revolve around lots of soldiers getting blown up then spun up in the air....It just seemed a little light weight for my liking in both the love stakes and the warfare. Shame cause other than that it was okay.
July 8, 2014
Passchendaele is another one of those films that falls under the category of a romance taking place in the midst of a tragedy...type...thing. I don't know if there is a genre like that, but there should be, because there's more than enough movies to give it its own classification. For me, a lot of these films have really been hit or miss, because I often find that the romance and drama between the characters outweighs the significance of the event the story takes place in. Titanic is a great example of this formula working quite well, while Pearl Harbor is an example of just how terrible this formula can be. Now enter Passchendaele. Unlike those other films previously mentioned, Passchendaele is a CANADIAN film revolving around a romance between a soldier and a nurse, while they are caught in the midst of the battle of Passchendaele, a key battle in the First World War in which Canadians played a significant role in. What I think this film does really well is telling a sort of classic romance tale, while also painting an accurate picture of the brutal battle. I thought it tackled both parts of the story pretty well, which is all the more impressive considering the low budget of the film. A sweetly told love story, and a fitting tribute to the Canadian soldiers who gave their lives during the battle of Passchendaele.
February 15, 2014
I'm not english mother tongue and maybe I did not get all the dialogues but honesty I like it. Maybe the movie, sometimes, is very slow but Gross shows the horror's war efficiently. The battle scene is terrific, modern war turns in medieval war. I think this is a half-war-movie and half-love-movie. This is a piece of canadian history. If you want to see bad fictions on war watch italian tv, trust me I'm italian.
February 11, 2014
This film is far better that you'd believe from the reviews. The final battle scene is horrific and was hard to watch because of it's authenticity.
July 14, 2012
Could have (and should have) been far better than it is. Canadian budget constraints are not at fault here, partially because the Australians have been able to make far better war films with far less cash, and partially because this is one of the biggest budget Canadian films ever produced, but mostly because it's awful. That battle sequences - stripped of their tedious melodrama - contain as good a production value as Band of Brothers; the uniforms, equipment, units, and battlefield appearance are all broadly historically accurate. It is however (and there is no way of getting around this) a massive steaming shit. I shall overlook the small problems with stereotypical characters (token First Nations soldier, pompous fat cowardly Brit), the glaring historical inaccuracies (80% of the men who joined the CEF between 1914-1918 were born in Britain, so spare me the pious 'us and them' post colonial harping), and even the simply appalling melodramatic plot; let's just focus on the script. Stock characters parroting stock lines doesn't even come into it, Passchendaele presents the viewer with stock characters parroting borderline incomprehensible lines. There is a refrain carried forth between the two terribly mismatched leads (Gross is 20 years older than his supposed love interest for christ's sake), which one feels is intended to be poetic, but is actually no different from the work of a six year old child trying to fill up space on a homework assignment. This refrain was excruciating the first time the it was delivered, describing the Canadian scenery the way a first year French student describes his clothes (Mon, pantalon, est, noir. Ma, chemise, est, noir), but by the third go recital all one can here is one's inner monologue saying 'oooh for fuck's sake'. What is most annoying about this is that Canada (hell, the English speaking world!) is desperate for a decent film about the First World War; an Anglophone answer to Juenet's A Very Long Engagement. We deserve one, given that the last great English language WWI film was Gallipoli (1981). But this is emphatically not it. Thus it is a missed opportunity. It's money thrown at a sub-par made for TV script. It's (for the most part) perfectly decent actors led astray by the sense that because they're 'doing this for Canada', they're doing a good thing. It's just bad. In fact, it's East Enders (Days of Our Lives for the North American audience) with a war going on.
March 29, 2013
The Canadians Didn't Seem to Know It Couldn't Be Taken

If it is true, as several people lament in the making-of, that Canadians no longer know their own history, so much the less do Americans know it. Americans will persist in telling Europeans that, if not for them, British or French or wherever citizens would all be speaking German. However, people who know a bit of the history of the two world wars know that the Americans got to both wars late. After all, in World War II, we had to invade France, because the Germans had completely overrun it. In the First World War, well, it's worth noting that the scene that opens the movie takes place a day or two after the US officially declared war, and we are explicitly told that the Canadians had been fighting for three years at that point. (Less a few months, but who's counting?) What's more, the Canadians were well known to be extremely fierce fighters--by the Allies as well as the Germans.

In particular, we are looking here at Sergeant Michael Dunne (Paul Gross), wounded at Vimy Ridge. He is sent back to Canada, where he is diagnosed with what was then called neurasthenia. Instead of going back to the front, he is sent to a recruiting office in his hometown of Calgary. He falls in love with his nurse, Sarah Mann (Caroline Dhavernas), but she has no interest in getting emotionally involved with a soldier. Luckily for Dunne, he is there when Sarah's brother, David (Joe Dinicol), comes in. Unluckily for David, he has asthma, which disqualifies him for service--especially late enough in the war that gas was being used. Besides, Dunne knows that it will just about kill Sarah if David is killed, and he's interested in protecting Sarah. However, David is himself in love with Cassie Walker (Meredith Bailey), whose father (David Ley) is a doctor who doesn't want his only child involved with someone so far below their social class.

War is never fun, of course, but it seems to me that World War I was about the worst. In Passchendaele, a combination of months of rain and intense artillery even prevented the use of trenches--the bombing destroyed the drainage, and it was impossible to dig trenches in the sodden ground. Before-and-after pictures are frankly shocking--there is literally nothing left. Roads and buildings alike are completely obliterated. The battle lasted a couple of weeks and gained the Allies less than two miles of ground. Much of the war was like that, fought back and forth over the same ground. No one could properly bury the dead. No one in the film is gassed, but when David says that Dunne isn't blind, he doesn't mean that he didn't lose his eyes to bullets or shell fragments. That was one of the effects of gas. It also left insides scarred. The film reminds us that one in ten Canadians who went to war never returned home, but things weren't all sunshine and roses even for the ones who did.

This is not entirely about the battle, as you may have noticed. Arguably, it is very little about the battle. Mostly, it is Paul Gross attempting to connect with his grandfather, a veteran who did not speak much about the war to anyone. Indeed, his character is named after his grandfather, Michael Joseph Dunne. The real Dunne was on a fishing trip with his young grandson once, and he told Paul Gross that, during the war, he had bayoneted a young German boy in the forehead, and that boy had had "eyes like water." This scene appears at the beginning of the movie, and just as the real Dunne was haunted by it, so too it is the real reason for the fictional Dunne's "neurasthenia." Several times, we see those who preach on the "glory of war" receive some clear awareness of what war is really like. Of course, in one case, the guy just gets shot, but that's not uncommon. It is, after all, a war. Though I am giving to understand that the mud killed plenty as Passchendaele, not just the bullets.

For all the movie is as much about a man as about a battle, Paul Gross still put a lot of effort into historical accuracy. Strangely, even the claim that the Germans referred to the Canadian Expeditionary Force as stormtroopers is accurate, even if the name is generally believed historically to refer to German troops exclusively. The Germans really did use it to refer to those specific Canadian troops, for reasons that make sense with a bit of historical perspective that I'm not going to go into here. The physical appearance of the battlefield is carefully created. What was once the prairies of Alberta was plowed and soaked and so forth, creating a scene that matches that shown in period photos. Even if the average person doesn't know much about World War I history--and I confess, I do not and had to look up the "stormtrooper" thing--Paul Gross clearly went out of his way to get it as right as possible. He probably knows that you can't give the story a glorious ending, because it wasn't a glorious war.
March 26, 2013
This movie made me uncomfortable.
July 28, 2011
People yet again miss the point of another great one- yeah it focuses too much on the love story, but I'm a sucker for a good love story- that's where the not very manly part of me comes into play. And the film does have a good message about heroism in war.
December 8, 2012
Many errors, first off, the germans were nicknamed stormtroopers not canadians. Second, the battle wasn't just 1 day like the film showed
November 11, 2012
Saw it today for the fist time. THought it was extremely well done. Showed the terible horrors of war and from a Canadian point of view.
June 28, 2009
Canada's answer to Pearl Harbor. It suffers from all the same problems and its without the visual spectacle.
December 20, 2011
A war movie that can't make up its mind whether war is bad or something one can be proud of.
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