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Quick Review: All Quiet On The Western Front
A German Remake Of The Best Picture Winner
The following is my review for the film All Quiet On The Western Front. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I score films when I review them.
Paul Baumer and his friends Albert and Muller, egged on by romantic dreams of heroism, voluntarily enlist in the German army. Full of excitement and patriotic fervour, the boys enthusiastically march into a war they believe in. But once on the Western Front, they discover the soul-destroying horror of World War I.
First published in 1929, Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet On The Western Front has gone on to become a classic of anti-war literature, showing the raw and harsh realities of World War I. Its 1930 film adaptation won the Oscar for Best Picture and has gone on to be seen as one of the most important films of its era. There was a seventies television movie, but its become more of a trivia question than a remembered classic.
Now we have a brand new adaptation with Netflix’s backing, but this time from German Director Edward Berger, starring a new face in German cinema in young actor Felix Kammerer as our protagonist Paul, and with a notable supporting role in Daniel Bruhl as a diplomat trying to stop the war. Premiering during the festival season, its been welcomed with acclaim and talk of potential Oscars recognition with rumors it may end up being Netflix’s top priority.
I finally got my eyes on this one after a hectic week of planning for a Halloween party and taking in a lazy Sunday catching up with arguably the two biggest international contenders of the year. And I have to say I ended up really liking it - but not outright loving it as much as everyone else did.
Its a depressing film and anybody going into this should ready themselves for how bleak this is. Because of that I can see it lacking rewatchability after a first watch. Its also just a tad longer than it feels it needs to be with pacing that I had some issues with as being maybe a little to slow for my taste with certain scenes and story beats.
But it is an amazing achievement in making an anti-war film while remaining true to the source material (It changes little versus the events of the novel). It may just be the most raw, uncomfortable, war film since the eighties cinephile classic Come And See. The direction is easily in contention to make my personal five of the year, the cinematography is even more impressive, the production design and makeup is damn near perfect, the performance from Kammerer is great, and the score gives The Batman a run for its money for my favorite of the year. This is a movie that truly brings war to life in all of its ugliness - and no glory to be found.
All in all this is a great war film. But it is a bleak and depressing anti-war film at that, and as much as I respected the hell out of its craftmanship, I also have to say it may just be too heavy a movie to revisit as well.