All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★½

While All Quiet on the Western Front is visually striking, hauntingly real and beautifully acted, it also starts off painfully slow and it lacks enough of a driving force behind the film itself to keep me engaged throughout.

Edward Berger presents the conflict with a very observant lens, often opting for a slowly moving or still camera to present the misery and occasionally leaning into the visceral chaotic camera movements when necessary to drive home the message of the sheer scale of terror that is felt when going over the top of the trenches. The beauty of nature contrasts the muddy ugliness of mankind, and Berger seems a little too keen to show that, by randomly throwing in shots of the real quiet that is away from the western front he also gradually loses my attention. In moderation this would be fine but I just couldn't help but feel as though it wasn't always necessary, and it shows that the lengthy runtime probably could've been shortened.

Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way in this movie was the completely out of place heavy bass synth in the score that seemed to be thrown in randomly for extra dramatic effect, as well as some random menacing drums thrown in for good measure. The heavy bass synth only really works in the final act where it actually helps in driving home how horrifyingly real this all was, but until then it just feels frustrating. Without those out of place elements the score would be excellent, it thrives in the quieter moments, and to be honest any other moment where there isn't a blaring synth playing.

The most consistently amazing part of this film are the performances, Felix Kammerer especially. The way his performance just totally absorbs you into the terror he is feeling is phenomenal, whether he is crying over a fallen comrade or being forced to march into certain death you can really see just what this war did to so many people. The rest of the soldiers are all acted superbly as well, which helps you to care for their characters (which the script doesn't bother too much with, potentially because the whole point is that these soldiers were seen as mere shells on the battlefield, other than Paul the only other character that feels properly developed is Kat). The performances of those in command of the conflict are also fantastic, particularly Daniel Brühl.

Overall, there's no doubt that All Quiet on the Western Front is extremely powerful in its portrayal of how the western front was in fact not at all quiet, but while it is very well made and I was totally absorbed for most of the runtime (and the whole 3rd act left my jaw on the floor, especially that ending), I can't help but feel that a lot of the buzz around this is because it's a German take on WW1, because this is certainly no Saving Private Ryan.
3.5 stars == Decent/Good.
The 3rd act was so good in fact, that I was debating giving this 4 stars (it was also really powerful how it ended on a similar shot that the film started with as the final point this movie makes against war), but I ended up deciding that I can't forget the issues I found with this.

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