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MPAA Rating: none
Canada: 13+ (Quebec)
Canada: 14A (Alberta/British Columbia/Manitoba/Ontario)

Reviewed by: Rachel Langer

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Adults • Young-Adults
War History Romance Drama
1 hr. 54 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Canada: 17 October 2008
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Relevant Issues
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What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

War in the Bible

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True love

What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

What is Christian LOVE? Answer

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Fear, Anxiety and Worry… What does the Bible say? Answer

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Featuring: Alex Arsenault, Meredith Bailey, Gil Bellows, Don Bland, David Brown, Tom Carey, Jason Cermak, Ryan Cowie, Ross Crockett, Caroline Dhavernas, Joe Dinicol, Jesse Frechette, Michael Greyeyes, Paul Gross, Adam Harrington, David Haysom, Chris Ippolito, Brian Jensen, Rainer Kahl, James Kot, C. Adam Leigh, David Lereaney, Landon Liboiron, Jim Mezon, Chad Nobert, Robert Nogier, Sean Anthony Olsen, Hugh Probyn, Raymond G. Rempel, Mandy Stobo, Joseph Allan Sutherland, Jayson Therrien
Director: Paul Gross
Producer: Damberger Film and Cattle Co., Rhombus Media, Whizbang Films Inc., Francis Damberger, Niv Fichman, Paul Gross, Thom J. Pretak, Frank Siracusa, Austin Wong
Distributor: Alliance Films

“In love, there is only one rule… don’t die.”

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Paul Gross’ revisits one of Canada’s darkest wartime experiences in the Canadian-made film about the World War I battle at Passchendaele. Set primarily in the (then) small town of Calgary, Alberta, this film concentrates not only on the horrors of the battlefield, but sheds some light on the challenges faced by those who were left on the home front.

Gross stars as Michael Dunne, a veteran brought home and assigned to recruitment in Calgary after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. During his stay at the war hospital, Dunne is treated by nurse Sarah Mann (Caroline Dhavernas) whom he takes a shine to. Mann, whose asthmatic brother has no greater wish than to be recruited, is hiding some secrets of her own regarding her parents, who do not appear in the film, and her silent struggle against her past. The film progresses with the relationship between Dunne and Mann, and Dunne’s lack of enthusiasm for the recruitment effort. When Mann’s brother finds a back way into the war and is about to be sent to the front lines, Dunne must do all he can to look out for him, and decides to return overseas.

The beginning and the end of this film take place overseas as soldiers fight for life and love of country. These sequences are filled with challenging decisions and no small amount of blood, which holds true of any realistic battle sequence. There are scenes of point blank killing, as well as indirect fighting and shooting. The hospital scenes are graphic, and there is no belittling the agony that these soldiers are experiencing. Though the bloodiness of this film does not quite reach the ranks of “Saving Private Ryan” (if only due to its length) it does not shy away from a realistic amount of gruesomeness. The depiction of the conditions experienced by those present in this war causes the viewer to understand why trench warfare was seldom seen again.

Spirituality is not a major theme in “Passchendaele.” Religion is seldom mentioned, if at all. Viewers are left to make their own conclusions about the spiritual preferences of the characters, and the correlation between war and the will of God.

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

There is a small amount of nudity, involving a woman’s top half and a male’s bottom, and there is a moderate amount of drinking as well as several sex scenes, though they are short and not graphic. Profanity is present, though not excessive and likely very accurate of the situation, though this may still offend some viewers.

Though I have viewed many a war movie, I did walk away from this one with a heavy heart. Perhaps it was the fact that I went just after Canada’s Remembrance Day with the thoughts of those who fought for my country close to the surface. Perhaps it was the sheer volume of soldiers that lost their lives on both sides. Maybe it was the futile feeling of the soldiers up to their armpits in dirty water, knowing that they love their countries, but unprepared for the conditions that they lived under and the decisions they were forced to make minute by minute with nothing but a vague sense of patriotism to guide them.

Either way, “Passchendaele” is an achievement, not only in Canadian filmmaking, but in providing a window into the past, allowing the youth of our time a glimpse of understanding into the sacrifices of our forefathers, and honouring their memories in so doing. I would not recommend this movie to the faint of heart, or to anyone who is easily offended by violence, as there is plenty. However, if you can allow the realism to mitigate the gore, there is something to be learned from this film.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Negative—I was really disappointed because I was looking forward to a historic piece that made me feel proud to be a Canadian. In reality, it seemed like an anti-war agenda that was being portrayed and the text runs at the end of the film even seemed to dishonor our veterans.

The first scene, which I believe is based on a true personal story, was the best—if you were looking for a war movie. Between that scene and the final 20 minutes—there was a looonnngg love story including sex scenes (one showed no skin but was way longer than necessary with a backdrop of bombs going off in the distance). It was an embarrassment for me as I brought my men's group to what we thought was a war story with some romance rather than a romance with a few minutes of the historic war story. It was probably one of the best made Canadian films ever, but you need to know what you're going to see. Do not assume it is a “Band of Brothers” movie or “Saving Private Ryan” type.

There was a weird climatic scene near the end where the main character's young brother-in-law is blown up by an explosive into an obvious crucified position and the hero carries him on his back across the battlefield. It was hard to figure out just what the filmmakers were really trying to say. Overall, the amount of work to transform Alberta into Passchendaele was really impressive; the acting was very good and convincing, but as a war movie, it doesn't make the cut.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Rick, age 46 (Canada)
Negative—More times than we could count (over a dozen for sure), the movie maker (who was the writer, director, producer, star…) profaned the name of the LORD in the most blasphemous ways. Personally, we think the main review should have mentioned this instead saying that God was not mentioned. IN FACT, he was many times in a very bad way. Even the gospel was misrepresented (even denied outright).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Jay B., age 35 (Canada)