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Passchendaele (DVD)

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Genre: War & Western - War / Theatrical Release: 2008 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Paul Gross / Actors: Paul Gross, Caroline Dhavernas, Joe Dinicol, Meredith Bailey, Jim Mezon ... / DVD released 2010-01-25 at High Fliers / Features of the DVD: PAL

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    4 Reviews
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      19.04.2011 19:34

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      I would recomend it to anyone who loves history or just enjoys a good love story.

      The scale of the battle of passchendaele can not be truely understood through the numbers which we are told. This story about one man and his journey really bring home the horrors of war. A feat which beacuse we become desensitised to violence is ever more poiniant.

      The story is well told in a way which is interesting. I never felt that there were any parts of the story which acted as filler or were not really needed. Everything had a right and a reason to be where it was. Overall the story was captivating and well told.

      The cinematography and way in which this film was shot could be studied itself, however as it would be somewhat in depth I will not go into it. All the scenes are shot very well.

      The music in this film was also fantastic with the mood being set adequetly without being over powering.

      Any effects which although there were a fair number wasn't comparible to say the number in a scifi film were all done very well looking so real it was chilling.

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      06.10.2010 07:43
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      A moving and powerful true story of one of the worst battles of World War 1

      The first world war is raging and the Canadian troops have been sent to Belgium to try and take some offensives. We meet Sergeant Michael Dunne who is leading his group of men into a very dangerous area to try and take it from the Germans. As a result he looses his men and he himself is terribly injured. As a result of his injuries he is flown back to Canada to recover and end his military career working on the home front recruiting troops.

      It is during the time of his recovery he meets Nurse Sarah and falls head over heels in love. He does manage to get to know Sarah and their friendship blossoms once he has left the hospital. Sarah is not having a good time at home as her younger brother has decided to enlist despite his medical conditions and it falls to Michael try and stop him.

      Will Michael be able to stop Sarah's brother going to the front line and what will become of their friendship? Will Michael ever get back to the front line and fight for his beliefs like he so wishes?

      The plot for the film which I have given really does only slightly touch the surface of this film and there is so much more, we have a side story involving Sarah's brother and other army members but I felt giving too much away would spoil the film for those who may not have seen this yet. I really did enjoy the storyline in the film as it had the right mix of the battle action and the love story and did make for some very good viewing. I was very shocked at the end of the film when I discovered that this was a true story, don't get me wrong I knew the battle of Passchendaele happened but I was shocked to discover that Michael Dunne was a real soldier and this is what happened to him during the war. I think this element made the film slightly more special to me.

      The acting throughout the film was excellent and the lead role of Michael Dunne was played by Paul Gross, he played the part excellently and I was able to warm to him and felt I knew him and understood the way he felt and thought. He delivered all of his lines with ease and made they all believable and I found the way he dealt with his emotions to be very good and quite moving at times. He managed to show different sides to his personality with the way he dealt with the war and then how different he was when with Sarah and I thought this worked well. There was a part of me that felt he looked too at ease with the battle scenes and I would have liked to have seen slightly more fear in his face as there were some terrible sights and scenes he had to act in.

      The chemistry between Michael and Sarah was good, Sarah was played by Caroline Dhavernas and she too do a great job. I loved the vulnerable side which she showed at times and felt this worked well with the hard exterior she had when working as a Nurse. I also felt the revelation about her family was a good addition and she took to this with ease and I always felt that there was a lovely connection between both of these actors. We did have a lot of good support actors and to name just a few we had, Joe Dinicol Meredith Bailey, Michael Greyeyes and Gil Bellows, they each played such different characters and this worked well by adding some diversity and depth to the storyline.

      The special effects throughout were amazing and some of the scenes were actually very brutal and graphic. I think the contrast with the gun fights and the had to hand contact on the battle field to the lovely rolling countryside of Canada worked well and showed how people could be forgiven for forgetting that there was a war on. The way the war was portrayed was superb as it did look and have the same feel as what have read about this battle in history book and biographies from soldiers who fought here. The mud and ran looked awful and the way the men had to fight through this was shown in a very believable way and looked amazing even thought the conditions were awful for the men. There are some photographs shown at the end of the film during the credits and they are original ones taken at this battle and the backgrounds to them look just like the film sets and this for me helped to make the film more realistic and believable. As I said before there are some very brutal parts to the film and one part which stands out is when one of the soldiers has to physically push a bayonet through another soldiers head as he was the enemy and we do have lots of explosions with limbs flying everywhere and bodes being blow to pieces. I don't think this film should have the 15 rate and I think that due to the severity of some of the scenes it should be an 18.

      The music was very poignant throughout the film and really did help with the emotions and the feel of the storyline. It was all very easy to listen to and the orchestral tracks really helped with the tensions of the battle scenes and was very enjoyable to listen to overall. The costumes and props were also very good and authentic for the early 1900's and I loved seeing the old way of life and the basic equipment the men were set to war with as they are so different to what is used now but the way the men used what they had and all worked together came across so well.

      There is a bonus feature on the DVD of the road to Passchendaele but I have not viewed this as the film made enough of an impact on me.

      The DVD cost just £5 in Tesco and I feel this is such a great price. The running time is 109 minutes and the rate is a 15 but as I said before this should be upped to an 18. I have to give this film the full 5 star and give it a very high recommendation as both me and hubby thoroughly enjoyed it and found it a moving story. I think all those young teenagers who seem to have no respect for their elders should be made to watch this film and maybe they will understand what the older generations went through to secure freedom for their country.

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        09.02.2010 21:24
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        fantastic film showing true events in first world war

        I have been wanting to see this film for sometime now. I am a huge Paul Gross fan and he has written, directed, produced and starred in this movie. It's based on one of the battles of the first world war, Passchendaele, which Canadian soldiers fought in and thousands were killed.

        I watched this film with my grandad, who is Canadian and served in the army (although not during the first world war) and based on his knowledge and experience, the film was true to life.

        The start of the film shows a battle in France and Michael Dunn (Paul Gross) is injured and several men are killed. He ends up killing a young German soldier before becoming injured himself. Back in Alberta in hospital, he falls for the nurse, Sarah Mann, who is looking after him. Unwilling to go back to the front,Michael is sent to the recruiting office where he is encouraged to recruit people to send to the fighting. The film shows how the patriotism of the town is so high, any young man not fighting is expected to have a very good reason as to why he can't serve. David, Sarah's brother, has asthma and medically can't fight but after being ridiculed, he feels the need to lie and asks his fiance's father, a doctor, to sign a note saying he's medically fit. His sister is horrified by this and Michael ends up going back to the front to look after him.

        Once he arrives back in France, Michael and David find themselves in the trenches at Passchendaele.......


        I feel I can't give the film justice by merely telling the synopsis and would urge everyone to watch it for themselves. My sister's fiance gave the film to my grandparents to watch and his dad had showed it to his history class at school.

        Although the film locations were in Alberta, the special effects and the film sets could be in France and you really could be in a battle somewhere in Europe.

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        05.02.2010 13:53
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        A very good Canadian film that deserves wider exposure and recognition.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~
        INTRODUCTION
        ~~~~~~~~~~~

        It's not often that I take a chance on a film solely on the strength of the cover of the DVD, especially when it features a relatively unknown cast and obscure subject matter, but on a recent trip to the DVD shop, I was struggling to find a film to make up a four for a tenner rental offer.

        As a history buff, I know much more about the Second World War than the first, but while browsing the shelves, something about the name "Passchendaele" rang some bells. I read the blurb with interest, especially after seeing the film had won some awards, and seeing it was set during the Great War, decided it was worth a punt.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        ABOUT PASSCHENDAELE
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        The Battle of Passchendaele, named after a small town near Ypres in Belgium, was one of major engagements of World War One, and took place on the fields of Western Flanders between June and November 1917. The battle was fought between British and Commonwealth troops (Canada, Australia and New Zealand were heavily represented) and the Germans, and was representative of the misery and attrition of trench warfare at its very worst.

        The thick, clinging mud and the seemingly endless rain and damp were constant companions to the troops who fought for months on end, pounded both physically and mentally by merciless and unrelenting artillery fire. The monotony was only broken by sporadic sorties across the lines against well-defended positions, with very little hope of a breakthrough.

        There was no rhyme or reason why some survived and some did not - the randomness of death was a fact of life. It may have made a difference if there was something tangible for the soldiers to fight for, but Passchendaele is also synonymous with the futility of the conflict as a whole - after five months of fighting, the Allies gained five (5) kilometres of ground at the cost of an estimated 200,000 lives (60,000 of which were Canadian) - and promptly gave it all back, unopposed, just three short months later.

        The main war scenes of the film concentrate on the efforts of the Canadian Corps, who had a central role in second phase of the battle between 26th October to 10th November 1917, and were primarily responsible for capturing the town of Passchendaele and ending the campaign.

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        FILM SYNOPSIS
        ~~~~~~~~~~~

        This Canadian film is directed by, and stars Paul Gross, perhaps best known for his stint as everyone's favourite Canadian Mountie in the TV series Due South. It tells the story of the conflict through the eyes and experiences of a battle-hardened veteran who is apparently suffering from shell shock, the nurse he falls in love with, and her naïve brother.

        The film opens in France, with Sergeant Michael Dunne (Paul Gross) leading a squad of Canadian soldiers against an entrenched German machine gun nest. In the ensuing firefight, a number of his men are critically injured and he decides to raise a white flag to retrieve them. In those days, a code of honour and chivalry still existed between the ordinary men who fought these family squabbles between kings and princes, and it was not unusual for a temporary truce to be called for each side to tend to their wounded.

        Tragically, a misunderstanding between a nervous new recruit and his callow German counterpart with an itchy trigger finger shatters the momentary peace, and the Germans open fire on the defenseless Canadians. Against the odds, Dunne manages to overrun the enemy position and finds that the young German who opened fire on his comrades is the only survivor - wounded and terrified - but very much alive. The events of the next few minutes change Dunne forever - physically, mentally and emotionally.

        The film picks up in a Calgary hospital many weeks later and we find that Dunne has been decorated for his bravery and has healed of his physical injuries. He also falls in love with a pretty and enigmatic nurse, Sarah Mann (Caroline Dhavernas), that has been tending to his wounds. Despite the obvious chemistry between them, she refuses his advances, citing a personal rule that she doesn't go out with soldiers.

        Despite his hero status, we soon find out that he actually walked off the battlefield against orders - an act of desertion punishable by death - and all that is saving him from execution are a few benevolent colleagues who are willing to maintain the fiction that he is mentally unsuited to returning to the front. Instead, he is given a job as a local recruitment officer for the war effort.

        In this role, he meets David Mann (Joe Dinicol) - a young lad desperate to join the army, but who is prevented from doing so because he suffers from chronic asthma. Dunne quickly establishes that Sarah is David's sister, which gives him the opportunity to call on her, and also ensure - because he wants to protect the boy - that David cannot enlist. We are also introduced to a jobsworth British officer, Randolph Dobson-Hughes, who takes an instant dislike to Dunne due to his apparent "cowardice" and becomes something of a nemesis to him.

        With the stage set, the film initially concentrates on the budding relationships between the main characters as they settle into their new roles in Alberta, before a series of unexpected events soon forces each of them to make some hard decisions about their futures and each other, all of which are brought to a head during the eponymous battle.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        THE MAIN PLAYERS
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        > Paul Gross (Sergeant Michael Dunne)

        It's hard to shake the image of Gross in his red Mountie uniform as Constable Benton Fraser in "Due South", a TV series that is now over ten (10) years old. However, to pun badly, that would be Grossly unfair. He is much better known in his native Canada, more for his acting than directing (this is only his second effort) but on the strength of this film - on both sides of the camera - he has a decent future ahead of him.

        He plays Dunne with a quiet dignity, conviction and strength, inhabiting the character like a second skin. It's no wonder, as Michael Dunne - the war hero - was not only an actual person, he was Gross' real-life grandfather. As such, this film unsurprisingly comes across as labour of love. Despite the fact that it is on record as being the most expensive Canadian film ever made ($20m USD) it has an intimacy that could only have come with his knowledge of the first-hand accounts that his grandfather shared with him.

        > Caroline Dhavernas (Sarah Mann)

        Dhavernas, a French-Canadian actress, has one of those faces that you know you have seen somewhere but can't quite place. She is little known outside her native country, but has an impressive portfolio of French-language films and TV appearances to her credit. She imbues the conflicted but principled Nurse Mann with a steely determination with more than a hint of feminine vulnerability. I enjoyed watching her in this role, and the developing relationship between herself and Dunne is one of the highlights of the film. It never gets mawkish or overly sentimental , and that's a credit to the two leads.

        > Joe Dinicol (David Mann)

        Although we spend a decent amount of time with him, David is possibly the least developed of the main characters. He is brash, determined like his sister, and consumed with a burning sense of injustice and misplaced patriotism. His actions throughout the film provide the catalyst for some of the major plot developments, so you can't help but think he is more of a vehicle for Gross to progress the story than someone he genuinely wants us to be interested in. As such, he can be hard to empathise with at times, but that said, Dinicol does a decent job of bringing the young man to life.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        FURTHER THOUGHTS
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        The film was not at all what I thought it would be. Part drama, part war film and part romance, If it were a stage play, it would be easy to break down into three distinct acts held together by the developing back story. The acting is not exceptional, but it is believable, and the leads do well enough to help you emotionally connect with their characters.

        Gross leads us on a three separate journeys of personal redemption within the context of a defining moment in Canadian (and World) history, an event that ultimately threatens to consume the characters he employs to tell the story. In acting and directing, Gross tries to find a delicate balance between telling the intimate, personal stories of this trio, with conveying the much wider story of the experiences of soldiers who fought in the trenches.

        In my view, this is where the film falls down a bit - Gross is clearly comfortable with what he knows - in other words, the personal story of his grandfather - but struggles a bit in addressing the bigger picture. He captures the detail, mood and atmosphere of the period very well, but apart from the lead characters, you don't really get a feel for the ordinary soldier. That's what makes this film simply quite good, rather than exceptional.

        However, the relatively minor shortfall in acting and directing talent is more than made up for by the cinematography. It is a beautifully shot movie (most of the filming was done in Alberta) with some stunning scenes of the Canadian Rockies. These vibrant images provide a startlingly contrast to the grey, bleak. desolate and war-scarred landscape of the Flanders fields later in the film.

        The battlefield scenes are exceptional, and really bring home the physical conditions that soldiers had to endure during World War One. By all accounts, Gross was almost obsessive in ensuring historical accuracy for his battlefield scenes. I was sufficiently intrigued by the film to make a quick trip to the film's web-site (www.passchendaelethemovie.com) and its entry at www.imbd.com, where there is much more fascinating information about the film, its background, the history and its stars, which, in the interests of brevity I have not included here (I know, don't laugh!).

        The last known British veteran of Passchendaele was Private Harry Patch, who passed away last year at the venerable age of one hundred and eleven (111!) and even if this film concentrates solely on the courageous Canadian Corps, it brings his personal sacrifice and bravery into sharper focus.

        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        PRICE & AVAILABILITY
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

        As this was a DVD rental, this is a film only review. However, a quick survey on-line shows the film is widely available from a variety of well-known e-tailers for around £7.98 on DVD and £12.98 on Blu-Ray - a steal on either format. The film, which runs for around 110 minutes, is classified as a 15 (fifteen), which, given the graphic battle scenes is well justified.

        ~~~~~~~
        VERDICT
        ~~~~~~~

        I thoroughly enjoyed Passchendaele. Although I picked it up expecting a war movie from start to finish, I was pleasantly surprised that it contained a fair bit of back story and human interest away from the front line. Despite the blood, guts and gore in the more visceral and brutal battle scenes, there are enough engaging moments - especially in the relationships between the main protagonists and the parts of the story based in Canada - to give this film a much wider appeal.

        Highly recommended.

        © Hishyeness 2010

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