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Paul Gross is no Kevin Costner - yet.

If the title Passchendaele were spelled Passion Dale, it would still fit. Paul Gross's prestigious directorial effort isn't much as a historical film, but it makes an adequate soap opera.

It isn't until the movie's last third that the battle of Passchendaele (a 1917 linchpin of Canadian valour and sacrifice) is fought. Until that point, the movie uses the historical setting to support a love story between wounded Sgt. Dunne (Gross) and Sarah (Caroline Dhavernas), the nurse who attended to him. Another piece of history gets the weepy romantic accessibility of Titanic and Pearl Harbor. Gross hasn't the cinematic chops of an actor-turned-director like Kevin Costner, but his taste for old-fashioned epics reveals someday he could. Too often, Passchendaele has the vainglorious polish of a Canadian Heritage Minute combined with an effort to replicate Saving Private Ryan's combat scenes. It's brisk and inoffensive, but its romanticism overtakes what might have been.

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Vol 25, No 32
January 11, 2018

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