All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★½

I’ll start by saying that I’m not a fan of war films or long films so Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front had two things against it going in. That said, although I struggled with the first act, as the film went on, I found myself more and more engaged. Overall this is well-made, well-acted, harrowing look at war.

The brutalities of battle are not sugar coated in All Quiet on the Western Front. The war scenes are exceptionally violent and Berger does a good job of bringing panic and chaos to the screen. The second and final act battles are intense with lots of camera movement and quick edits. In one shot, Paul (Felix Kammerer) is running with other soldiers and they are gunned down in frame one by one with Paul running for his literal life as the only one left (Kammerer’s expressive eyes and labored breathing being outstanding). Quite scary and traumatic. 

It took a while but I did find myself eventually emotionally invested in the film. What the Germans do with soldiers’ jackets, how they brainwash recruits and the brute force used to keep the men in line is saddening and thought-provoking. I wasn’t sure I agreed with Berger’s decision to just jump into a life or death situation immediately upon our protagonist’s arrival because the emotional beats have less impact, but it’s also more realistic. 

I hated the synth score. So out of place. 

If the film was trimmed down, particularly in the first act, it’d be a solid 4.0 as there’s no denying All Quiet on the Western Front has a lot of depth.

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