Rare are the movies with a running time of two and a half hours I play fully knowing I won’t be bored for a second of them. All Quiet on the Western Front is an unsettling war movie you simply must watch. It doesn’t matter whether you like or don’t like these types of movies, you just have to do it. Mostly because war doesn’t care about you and your feelings. And it can creep up on you suddenly and destroy everything. We will be following a young German soldier Paul and his experiences during World War I. The opening scene is perhaps one of the best I have ever seen in any war movie.
Unlike the other modern big WWI movie, 1917, All Quiet on the Western Front is more of a compromise between drama and action. There will be epic fighting scenes but there will also be a lot of character development and time for introspection. Something that should come as no surprise since the movie is based on the 1929 novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. It’s truly remarkable how he captured almost every aspect of the war with such honesty. Probably because Erich lived through it and tried to do his best to prevent another one.
Peter Jackson’s documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, tells a similar story but from the other, British side. And it’s fascinating to see just how eager and happy these recruits were at the beginning of the war. They thought they were going to have a good time or something. And you see just how easy it is to mobilize a lot of people in service of something. The visuals were simply stunning, showing the true scale of death and destruction. All Quiet on the Western Front 2022 is a very atmospheric movie, dangerously close to the style-over-substance area. It all depends on your preferences and mood.
I’m someone who loves watching these longer shots of just forest swaying in the wind or muddy trenches. I immerse myself in the movie that way. And I also love learning new things about WWI. This was a terrifyingly fascinating period in our human history, overshadowed by WWII. Something I talk about in every movie about WWI I recommend although there aren’t many of them. You’ve got 1917, Flyboys, The Lost Battalion, and Gallipoli. And apart from The Trench and Beneath Hill 60, that’s about it.
Paul Bäumer is finally going to war with his friends. He even had to fake his parent’s signatures so he could do what everyone else seem to be doing. The spirits are high and recruits are loving their basic training. However, as soon as they reached the frontline, those spirits sank into despair. The smell of death was everywhere and after intense shelling, the first recruits started dying. Paul, terrified by what he has seen, is slowly starting to die inside. It seems to be the only way to not die outside and carry on…
When it comes to the storytelling aspect of the movie, I found it to be a bit off. It’s like they cranked out the depression and anti-war sentiment to a hundred giving us a few brief moments to catch our breath. I understand that the novel has its limitations and that they were trying to tell a certain kind of story but still… The “Hollywood epic war movie” type of story is cozy and familiar. A bargain with the devil you might say. I’m talking about movies like Saving Private Ryan or Hacksaw Ridge. I mean when your idea of a depressing Hollywood epic war movie is Fury or better yet, Dunkirk.
This is just a minor and almost insignificant flaw in an otherwise exceedingly well-crafted movie. Every frame here is a goddamn picture indeed. You can see just how much effort was put into this not just by the actors but by everyone involved. Young Felix Kammerer was excellent as Paul along with Albrecht Schuch and veteran Daniel Brühl. We will also get the chance to see French Saint-Chamond tanks in any movie. The scenes with these death boxes sent chills down my spine as I was thinking how it must have been hearing that roar for the first time.
Plus, I immediately remembered driving them in Battlefield 1 video game. Apart from tanks and flame throwers, we didn’t see much of the gas and gas grenades. This aspect of WWI was perhaps the most fucked up one for me. I could go on and on, praising this movie and talking to you about every little aspect of it I enjoyed but I won’t. It’s better that you see it for yourself and then tell me how you feel about it.
Finally, I just want to add how much I hate and loathe these politicians and generals, leading so many young lives to their untimely ends. Fucking vermin! And it’s always the same story, in each and every war movie and in real life. Full of psychiatric disorders, complexes and other issues, these men are willing to do anything in pursuit of their idiotic ideas and ideals. And they keep fucking doing it over and over again, with most of the humans following along silently. This fucking species man…
Director: Edward Berger
Writers: Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, Ian Stokell
Cast: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer, Daniel Brühl, Andreas Döhler
Fun Facts: The most expensive German film in the history of Netflix.