PASSCHENDAELE written and directed by Paul Gross, with Gross, Caroline Dhavernas, Joe Dinicol and Gil Bellows. An Alliance release. 90 minutes. Opens Friday (October 17). Rating: NNN
This account of one of the First World War's bloodiest battles is executed with surprising finesse. Who knew the guy who gave us Men With Brooms could deliver something this good?
Writer-director Paul Gross plays Michael Dunne, who returns traumatized - and unimpressed with the mission - from the front only to be coerced into the job of war recruiter. When the brother of the woman he loves (Caroline Dhavernas) enlists, Dunne goes back with him to the trenches, assuming the role of guardian angel.
The war scenes, superbly cut, are ferocious - fitting since the Canadian contingent suffered 16,000 casualties, including over 5,000 dead in a battle few Canadians know much about - and Gross is compelling as the soldier with a conscience.
So forgive the military clichés - buddies in the trenches, a hackneyed soundtrack - and credit the creators for a timely film that questions why we go to war.