All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★★

The best Netflix original film that I've seen from 2022 in what was a fairly disappointing year for the streamer in terms of awards season contenders. Still need to check out Bardo and White Noise but both got mixed reviews, and Blonde completely bombed in every sense of the word. But this is pretty special.

I have read the original book and I remember it making quite an impact on me in high school, probably one of the top five all time books I've had to read for school. I think the ultimate anti-war book or piece of media honestly, I really haven't read or seen anything that comes close. I have not watched the 1930 adaptation that won best pic however.

There is a weird thing for me that happens with war movies. I do love war films, I think mostly because my grandparents showed me a lot of classic ones when I was growing up and I went through a military/history phase as a kid, so I love war movies, and I also think there are many very well made war movies and the vast majority of war movies are at least attempting to make some sort of anti-war statement. I don't think I've seen a good war movie that was intended to be "pro-war".

But having said all that, I do think most war movies, if not all, glamorize it to some extent, even while attempting to do with all their might the exact opposite. There's just something about depicting it on the big screen, even if there's blood and gore and mud and guts, it's inherently glamorous and epic and "cool" to some or whatever. It can be the most visceral, unnerving experience, but there's still enough distance between the viewer comfortably at home on their couch and the actual people who experience war that it doesn't quite hit home. Not that there couldn't be a movie that truly is terrible to watch that doesn't fall victim to this, but I haven't seen it (I have not seen Come and See fyi). And there probably could be a movie that has no score and doesn't have gorgeous cinematography that does this, I'm not sure. These are just my thoughts. I don't think anyone who is pro-war or a warhawk or whatever could watch any of the war films I've seen and suddenly come out of it anti-war.

But nonetheless, movies still try, and All Quiet tries so very admirably. It's gritty and gory and visceral and stomach-churning and all the related adjectives, but at the end of the day, the battle sequences are the best part, and maybe it's stupid but it's because they're so well filmed and choreographed that they become somehow glamorous. I don't think anyone is going to be inspired to become a soldier by this or anything, but I do think people want the next battle scene to come when they're watching this, like I did, I'm not gonna lie.

Sort of on that note, I do wish this stuck closer to the book, the best sections, besides the one with that French soldier in the mud pit, are the ones at home when Paul returns from war. I didn't like how this deviated from the novel in that sense, and the last section of this rang a little false in some regards because of it. It made it feel hollow and like everything that happened previously didn't matter, and a little too convenient for the film's message. And I'm also not sure how the scenes without Paul fare, they're okay, but I would have preferred them to be excised or focus on Paul returning home like in the book. Oh well.

I did love that opening scene though I don't think that was in the book. But also I could be misremembering, it's been a long time since I read it. All apologies to anyone who read this far, this has been a very redundant and rambling review that's not particularly well written, I was more just jotting down my stream of consciousness, sorry

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