All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★★½

Three years into the First World War, a young German teenager named Paul Baumer (Feliz Kammerer) enlists in the German Imperial Army alongside his school friends - Albert, Franz and Ludwig (Aaron Hilmer, Moritz Klaus, Adrian Grunewald). After they are deployed in Northern France, they befriend an older soldier, a shoemaker named Stanislaus "Kat" Katcinzsky (Albrecht Schuch). Their innocent views of war are shattered as they are trapped in the trenches by gunfire and explosives and mourn their losses and muster through the last year of war as the Armistice of 11 November 1918 moves closer.

This is one of the most terrifying war-genre films that tackles anti-war and the bleakness of fighting for a monster and his pride. While it has remnants of the most terrifying aspects of 1917 and Hacksaw Ridge, two recent war films, there are moments that are reminiscent to the masterpiece of Come and See. A confused yet terrifying moment is when Baumer stabs a French soldier repeatedly but is remorseful as he does not know what to do after accomplishing nearly killing the enemy. He begs for forgiveness as he attempts to make his last moments comfortable by giving him water. It is disturbing and sad.

Directed with precision by Edward Berger, he made a horrifying and nearly masterful, bleak depiction of war I've seen in a while. But also, what Berger does to increase the tension is quite astute as he parallels the perils of war from the German soldiers' perspective with the Germans and the French negotiating the armistice which would eventually stop the war. Clock is ticking as the body count piles up. It's masterful editing in the second half of the film.

Some of the first third of the film is halted a bit as there is a section where lulls a bit as nothing is happening yet it rallies with the grim, sorrowful cinematography and the daunting, immersive storytelling. Some of the scenes when Baumer and his comrades are trapped in the trenches and on the field when the explosives are bursting around and the bullets ricocheting leaves you rattled with the realistic sound design. All Quiet on the Western Front may draw comparisons with the 1930 Best Picture winner, but on its own, it stands as a marvelous, horrific war picture that leaves you shaken to the core.

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