All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★

Pretty much flawless from a technical craft perspective, All Quiet on the Western Front is an impressively mounted big scale endeavour, capturing the chaos and devastation of the First World War in stark, clear and unflinchingly imagery, and yet its melodramatic tendencies and real balcony-style performances soften the impact of what should be an all round stunner. This isn't to say that the performances at hand are bad, not at all, it's more that they go for the big, showy, dramatic execution at every turn, with the whole piece turning far too dramatized to be as impactful as it could be as a result - Edward Berger can certainly direct in-the-moment intensity and spectacle as well as his contemporaries, but the direction of his actors leaves something to be desired.

The script doesn't help in this regard either as what should be a harrowing, violent tale delivers in its brutality, but, again, becomes far too cutely written in specific moments, and boasts a rather tangential and meandering structure often, not to mention diversions to a handful of bureaucrat subplots where they may as well have been twirling their moustaches. And whilst the main thrust of the story follows a handful of comrades, I never felt like I really knew any of them with any great depth to sympathise beyond their horrific predicament, all with the exception of Kat. There is the odd scene which could easily stand alone among the greatest, most effective sequences of any war film - the tank scene in particular is an eye opener - and, for a near two and a half hour film, it runs at a strong pace despite its odd structure.

To be perfectly honest, war movies don't usually do much for me anyway beyond being impressive technical achievements, but All Quiet on the Western Front does admirably double down on the devastation to forcibly grab one's attention and heartrate, even if it doesn't leave much of a lasting bruise.

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