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Regeneration

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Regeneration

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Regeneration, based on the acclaimed novel by Pat Barker, is essentially a British take on Catch-22 played as drama instead of black comedy. Jonathan Pryce plays a psychiatrist whose job is to treat shell-shocked soldiers so they may once again return to the front. Two officers in particular pose curious problems: One, the Yossarian-like Siegfried Sassoon (James Wilby), is a decorated hero and renowned poet who refuses to fight anymore on intellectual grounds. The other is the initially mute Jonny Lee Miller, who suffers from memory loss and horrific nightmares. But as the therapy continues, Pryce realizes that even he isn't immune to the horrors of war. Regeneration's performances are uniformly excellent, with Pryce standing out in a role that would have been perfect for a younger Alec Guinness. If Wilby's relationship with an aspiring poet (Stuart Bunce, in a fictionalized portrayal of British poet Wilfred Owen) and Miller's romance with a pretty Scottish factory worker aren't developed as much as they should be, they're still touching examples of the search for beauty in the middle of bloody chaos. Part of the problem is that Regeneration, the novel, is the first in a trilogy, and it focuses mostly on Pryce's psychiatrist. The film tries to squeeze a few too many strong personalities into a relatively small period of time, meaning that the viewer hardly has an opportunity to watch them all develop and interact before the movie ends. But this is a minor quibble, as mere glimpses of Regeneration's characters will suffice when the acting is this strong.