Saturday, September 6, 2008

WWI drama can't make up its mind about war

By Kirk Honeycutt

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - The raison d'etre for "Passchendaele" is a savage World War I battle by that name, a proud yet horrific moment in Canadian history that cost the still-young and underpopulated country so many of its finest young men.

But to get several major characters from a small frontier town in Alberta to the bloody fields of Ypres, Belgium, Paul Gross, the star-writer-director of the film, dives through hoops of increasing mawkishness and strained melodrama. The carnage of the battle has undoubted impact, but much less than it deserves since the audience has lost all hope in the cardboard characters.

The film might play entirely differently here in Canada -- where it is meant as a heartfelt tribute to Canadian troops in their first major international combat -- than it will elsewhere. So exposure beyond festival slots is iffy. A war film about pride, honor and glory is a tough sell anywhere else these days. The film will be distributed in Canada by Alliance Films.

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