All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★★

A damn solid war drama with a bland protagonist.

The film follows a group of German soldiers at the end of World War I as they try to survive the final few days of the conflict.

Well, I'm a little late to the party on this one, but after seeing so many positive reviews I figured it would be worth checking out, and thankfully it is. For starters, this movie looks absolutely gorgeous, with some stunning cinematography, especially during the film's battle sequences. This is by no means a "fun" war movie, this one features in-your-face brutality, meant to show you the horrors of war first hand, and it's all shot very well, with the violent atrocities being on full display. The movie isn't afraid to linger on the corpses or on those dying painfully. This feels like war as depicted by someone who has experienced it.

I also really liked the story being told here. I enjoyed watching the comradery and patriotism of these men being tested by the war. Admittedly, you probably know exactly where this all was headed (the second they began talking about the armistice, I knew how things would go down), but that's not really the biggest issue. I think the predictability of the outcome is meant to be more of an inevitability. Still, I enjoyed watching these soldiers interacting and working together as they tried to survive, but I honestly found the scenes taking place off of the battlefield, with those in peace talks to be just as, if not more interesting, primarily because I just did not really care for the protagonist, Paul.

Paul is not a bad character, let me get that out of the way now, he's just a damn bland one. The issue I have here is similar to the issue I had with The Northman, where the protagonist isn't bad or poorly acted (quite the opposite, Felix Kammerer turns in a fantastic performance), it's that he's not given a ton of characterization until the final act. We know Paul was a patriot at the start of the war, and that's really all you'll ever learn about him. His friends around him are far more fun and interesting, with Kat basically stealing the film from him. I think that Paul is meant to be a stand-in, an intentionally vague character that anyone can see themselves as, but that just doesn't work for me. Like I said, he's not bad, just not as interesting as he could be.

In the end, this is an easy recommendation, especially if you like war films with an anti-war message. It's too well made to be overlooked.

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