Paul Gross (Aspen Extreme)
Caroline Dhavernas (Devil)
Joe Dinicol (Arrow)
Meredith Bailey (Heartland)
Gil Bellows (Blind Horizon)
Adam Harrington (The Secret Circle)
Michael Greyeyes (Dance Me Outside)
Landon Liboiron (Altitude)
In the spring of 1917 after Vimy Ridge, Sergeant Michael Dunne of the 10th Battalion, CEF survives heavy combat but suffers from shellshock. He is sent home for recovery as a war hero for taking out a German machine gun position. While in hospital in Calgary, Alberta, he meets nurse Sarah Mann (Caroline Dhavernas), where he had originally enlisted. David Mann (Joe Dinicol) is Sarah’s younger brother, ineligible for military service due to asthma but determined to enlist. The Mann’s are ostracized when it becomes known their father died at Vimy Ridge when with the Imperial German Army. The father of David’s girlfriend pulls strings to allow him to enlist. Dunne feels responsible for David’s wellbeing and reenlists as a private under his mother’s maiden name McCrae.David and Michael end up in the battlefields of Belgium. Sarah also enlists and follows the 10th as a nurse in triage at an Advanced Dressing Station near the front. The three arrive in Flanders in time for the Battle of Passchendaele. Dunne and Sarah soon meet up again when Dunne brings a wounded man to the aid station. Dunne’s cover as McCrae is soon blown, he manages to escape punishment and is promoted to platoon leader by Lieutenant Colonel Ormond, who knew him from earlier combat, when his past actions “should have got a V.C.” and because of the need for experienced soldiers as high casualties were expected.When the Canadians launch their attack, the 8th Battalion (Winnipeg Rifles), known as the Little Black Devils, faces a German counterattack and become pinned down. Dunne’s company is sent to support them. After the support company arrives, the 8th Battalion retreats from the battlefield, wrongly believing that they are finally relieved, leaving the job of holding the ground to Dunne’s small force. As the reality of the war begins to set in, David Mann begins to realize the war was not what he believed it would be. Dunne’s forces spend the night in their trenches, and as a result of the shelling, David begins to have an asthmatic/panic attack and Dunne calms him down, relieving the problem.
The next morning the Germans counter-attack, and make it as far as the line, and both forces attack each other in close quarters combat. As the Germans retreat, David breaks down and chases them back to surrender. He jumps into their trenches and is met by a gun to the face where he begs in German. He is about to be shot when an artillery shell lands and the explosion throws him onto what is effectively a cross, created by walkway timbers from the trench. He is visually crucified by the explosion. This relates to Dunne’s earlier story of the legendary report of the crucified soldier. When Dunne sees this he takes his helmet off, throws his gun down and runs to David, in a reckless attempt to keep his promise to keep him alive, getting shot in the process. He crawls to the cross on his knees, looking up at it. The Germans stop firing and allow him to retrieve David, whom he carries back to his own lines. The fighting swiftly resumes with a shell landing. David lives, but Dunne is carried to the hospital where he dies after his last words with Sarah. This happens just as the news comes in that the Canadians have captured Passchendaele Ridge. The ending scene shows David Mann, who now has only one leg and uses a wheelchair; Sarah Mann; David’s girlfriend Cassie; and Dunne’s best friend Royster (Gil Bellows) paying tribute at Dunne’s grave on his home farm. The marker has been altered to remove the “5” of 1915 and changed to 1917. The camera then pans out and the background alters to a field of hundreds of Canadian war graves with a riderless horse on the horizon.All in all, Passchendaele is a very good movie that deals with a lot of issues. While not every part of it will appeal to everyone, there’s some parts that anyone would enjoy. In an American-dominated cinema, it’s about time someone steps up and shows us that Canada also exists and suffered far worse in the first world war than America could have ever dreamt of losing.