Passchendaele: 4 out of 10.
When I wrote about the Passchendaele trailer back in March of 2008, I mentioned how much I was looking forward to seeing the film. The most expensive Canadian film project of all time about the 10th Battalion, CEF in the First World War at the Battle of Passchendaele was precisely the kind of film I could get behind. I so wanted it to be good.
There's better acting and more integrity in this one minute Part of Our Heritage commercial. Unfortunately, I'm not kidding.
Let me preface the rest of this review by saying I take absolutely no joy in trashing this pic. I honestly have never wanted to like a movie more. I'm fervently proud of this country and our efforts in the World Wars, and I've been looking for more Canadian films about WWI. In this case, with this budget and subject matter, even okay isn't good enough, and Passchendaele wasn't okay. It was embarrassing.
Most of the movie takes place in Alberta and not the battlefield. There it's plot convenience after plot convenience, and laughably bad acting. Most of that bad acting comes from Train 48's Joe Dinicol. Hey Paul! When you're putting together the most expensive Canadian movie ever made, let's not give such a key role to a guy from Train 48. See how well Gil Bellows did in his small role? That's the kind of acting we needed out of David Mann.
Then there's the silly little things, like David Mann's sister being kicked out of nursing because her father fought for the Germans while David is allowed to actually fight for Canada in the war. And what's with that silliness with Michael Dunne getting Sarah Mann through her morphine addiction in one rough night? And did that mean British recruitment officer really have to follow Dunne all the way to Belgium? And what was with all that talk about horses and rivers? Such melodrama!
**Spoiler Alert** And then there's my least favourite scene in this movie. It just so happens to be the climatic scene where Paul Gross' character brings back David Mann from the German trenches on a crucifix. Don't ask me why Mann ran into the German trenches in the first place, I'm still trying to piece that together, or why he ended up on a crucifix, just trust me that he did. This was Gross' movie, and he wrote it to ensure he could strike one helluva Jesus Christ Pose for the grand finale. It was the key scene and it was sickening. Is that seriously the best we can do?
There was an opportunity here to do something special to honour our war heroes. Instead, Paul Gross made a boring, moronic, poorly acted piece of melodramatic bullshit.
We deserve so much better than this.