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Review: ‘25 April’ recounts the Battle of Gallipoli with animation and drawings

‘25 April’
A still from the animated documentary “25 April.”
(Film Corporation)

The Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 was one of the great debacles of World War I: Thousands of men and women died needlessly on the peninsula in what is now Turkey, with the Australian and New Zealand regiments bearing the brunt of the slaughter. Using letters, diaries, memoirs, motion-capture animation and still drawings, writer-director Leanne Pooley attempts to create an after-the-fact documentary of what five New Zealand soldiers and a nurse endured in “25 April.” The title refers to the date the eight-month battle began.

Although the filmmakers use the soldiers’ own words, they fail to create believable characters who can engage the audience. As a result, many of the battles and marches and the encounters on a hospital ship lack immediacy. In some scenes, the figures come alive on the screen, but these moments are few and far between.

To avoid the “uncanny valley,” an effect in which computer-generated human characters cause a response of revulsion in an audience, the artists shade the faces with areas of color, but the animation is too limited for the close-ups to be effective. The simplified figures, weightless motion-capture and garishly red blood make “25 April” look like a grisly computer game. The still ink drawings of the corpse-strewn battlefields have the power and sense of place the animated sequences too often lack, suggesting “25 April” would have made a more effective graphic novel.

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‘25 April’

Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Not rated

Playing: Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino

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