An explosive opening - trench fighting shown subjectively through the mud-spattered eyepiece of a gas mask - serves as prelude to the film's long central section where the hero (Depardieu), recovering from a bayonet thrust, falls in love with a schoolteacher (Courau) whose fiancé is at the front. Agony and ecstasy ensue, with the mincing machine of Verdun grinding away offstage. The supporting characters, especially the hero's buddies, are independently interesting, the setting - a wintry coastal town - has a personality of its own and Giraudeau puts some starch into the familiar figure of the kindly army medic. That said, the leads spark little empathy, the love scenes drag and the cop-out, feelgood finale is derisory.
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