All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I deliberately procrastinated in watching the most recent adaptation of the renowned book, mainly because I knew I would have to mentally prepare myself for such a [supposedly] visceral, immersive, and harrowing experience and account of the atrocities of World War I. And, yes, it is all of those things, yet it should be essential viewing for presenting this war in such a seemingly authentic manner. Director Edward Berger's adaptation is different from the Oscar-winning 1930 version -- which is one of the most notable anti-war films of all time -- in a number of ways, including the decision to portray the German side of WWI. It's unfortunate that I was unable to see this on the big screen, as the technical elements are so impressive, although I'm grateful for the opportunity to view it on Netflix. Sound-wise, the pulsing and perfectly-timed score gives the film an eerie tone, at times; also, both the sound editing mixing are superb, and it's a shame the Academy has reduced its sound nominees to one category.

This film is surely not for the faint of heart, although the best war films (Platoon, Saving Private Ryan) don't shy away from these gory details. Berger's version, too, is unafraid to break our hearts with emotional moments that are both expected and not. Young actor Felix Kammerer gives a shattering debut performance, and reminds me of George McKay's breakthrough role as the lead in the Oscar-winning 1917. Kammerer's Paul is, essentially, the audience surrogate, and even though we know very little about him, we can't help but hope he survives. The only familiar face here would be Daniel Bruhl, who gives a solid supporting performance as the higher-up German who wants to end the war in order to save as many lives as possible.

Sure, the film is long (which seems to be the trend these days), yet it never really dragged for me; the pacing is well done overall, and I was never bored. As with most foreign language films, it's best to watch this with the original [German] language and with English subtitles.

Vegan notes: There are dead horses, although we don't see them die (there are many more dead humans than that). Also, Paul and his fellow s soldier steal a goose from a farm, which they later eat -- but we don't see this. In addition, the soldiers are often seen eating non-vegan food, including obvious meat.

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