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Story

This extraordinary World War I film concerns themes of heroism, sacrifice, duty, and self-knowledge as profound as any in Saving Private Ryan. The story, taken from Pat Barker's 1991 novel Regeneration and based on true events, is set in a British Army hospital in Craiglockart, Scotland, in 1917. There, a pioneering psychiatrist named Dr. William Rivers (Jonathan Pryce) works with shell-shocked soldiers in a gentle, humane manner that contrasts sharply with the brutality of his colleagues. (The film's most horrifying scene features a mute patient being forced to speak by means of electric shock.)

Among Rivers's patients is a mute, amnesiac officer named Billy Prior (Jonny Lee Miller), as well as the emotionally depleted poet Wilfred Owen (Stuart Bunce) and another poet and war hero, Siegfried Sassoon (James Wilby). Unlike the others, Sassoon is not, in fact, suffering from any disorder but is being quietly punished for writing a pamphlet denouncing the war. The army hopes Rivers can find some basis for mental incompetency in Sassoon, but the thoughtful doctor instead attempts to persuade him to add legitimacy to his criticisms of the war by returning to active duty.

Pryce brilliantly captures the cumulative effects of Rivers's responsibility--of fixing men and sending them back to their possible deaths--on the good doctor's nerves. Wilby is also fine as Sassoon, but the film belongs just as much to actors Miller and Bunce, whose characters are different kinds of men struggling to find their balance, one through a revived sense of duty and the other through his writing. Scottish filmmaker Gillies Mackinnon (The Playboys) is at the top of his form, telling a unique story about the invisible wounds of war while shedding light on the meeting of two visionary poets and one visionary physician. --Tom Keogh

Cast

Jonathan PryceCapt. William Rivers
James Wilby2nd Lt. Siegfried Sassoon
Jonny Lee Miller2nd Lt. Billy Prior
Stuart Bunce2nd Lt. Wilfred Owen
Tanya AllenSarah
David HaymanMaj. Bryce
Dougray ScottCapt. Robert Graves
John NevilleDr. Yealland
Eileen NicholasMiss Crowe
Julian FellowesTimmons
David RobbDr. McIntyre
Kevin McKiddCallan
James McAvoyAnthony Balfour

  • Genre: War Movies
  • Director: Gillies MacKinnon
  • Producer: Artisan
  • Length: 96 min
  • Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
  • Theatrical Release
    North AmericaAug 14, 1998
  • Ratings
    North AmericaR
    Europe15
  • DVD Release
    North AmericaApr 22, 2003
    EuropeNov 20, 2000
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