Time: 147 Minutes
Age Rating: Graphic violence & content that may disturb
Felix Kammerer as Paul Bäumer
Albrecht Schuch as Stanislaus “Kat” Katczinsky
Daniel Brühl as Matthias Erzberger
Sebastian Hülk as Major Von Brixdorf
Director: Edward Berger
War breaks out in Germany in 1914. Paul Bäumer and his classmates quickly enlist in the army to serve their fatherland. No sooner are they drafted than the first images from the battlefield show them the reality of war.
I had previously heard of the movie title All Quiet on the Western Front, but knew it only as a war movie from the 30s. So I was surprised to hear about a film of the same title being released on Netflix in 2022. Turns out that it’s a newer adaptation of an anti-war book from the late 1920s, and one that has been receiving a lot of praise and attention. I can confirm that it deserves all the acclaim.
All Quiet on the Western Front is bleak and moving, with little to no sentimentality. It takes place in a German perspective in World War 1 and humanizes the soldiers on all fronts while capturing the worst of humanity. It really is a deconstruction of the myth of glorious war and a rejection of nationalism. There are no winners in war, and while there are plenty of war movies that showcase the harshness and brutality of war, even some of the best films in that genre fail at hammering home that point. Each emotional beat hits; it’s a tragic and raw movie that doesn’t hold your hand at any point. The storytelling isn’t particularly complex, nor is the story itself, but it is handled so well. Sometimes it relies less on dialogue and more on visuals and certain actions to convey the story. It is certainly a long movie at about 2 hours and 30 minutes and you can feel the length. Admittedly it does drag in parts, but I don’t think it would’ve been as effective if it was shorter.
What helps the movie to be even better are the great performances. Felix Kammerer is outstanding in his first leading role as someone who enlists in the German army with his friends, not prepared for what they’re about to face. Albrecht Schuch was a great supporting role as another soldier, his chemistry with Kammerer was great and convincing. The other performances including Daniel Bruhl are very good too.
The direction from Edward Berger is amazing, everything is carefully and immaculately crafted. It’s fantastic on a technical level, the production design, costumes and environments are stellar and help form an accurate portrayal of World War 1, capturing the realism and brutality. In spite of the grim stuff on screen, it is beautifully photographed and visually stunning. The set pieces are both grand and grim, the war scenes being brutal, gruesome and gory. It never feels safe and there’s a sense of urgency. It also makes sure to never make it entertaining to watch. Finally, the haunting score from Volker Bertelmann is incredibly effective and helps to make the experience feel even more unnerving.
All Quiet on the Western Front is a lengthy but impactful, brutally realistic and unsettling portrait of war. It is outstanding on a technical level with immaculate direction, and is helped even further by the raw performances. It is a great anti war film, not an enjoyable watch by any means, but I think it’s one well worth watching.
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