All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★★

It was on a recent Big Picture podcast where Chris Ryan pondered the question: "Are we running out of ways to do this?"

Admittedly, it's hard not to go into All Quiet on the Western Front without that nagging sense that we have indeed seen all of this before.

Many reviews have uttered the words 'Saving', 'Private' and 'Ryan' in relation to this new 2022 adaptation of Remarque's novel, and yes, like any World War (original or sequel - war that is) film that has been released in the last 25 years, there are a number of technical nods to the Omaha Beach landings.

Beyond that though, it's clear to see that Edward Berger was also watching the less-successful (and yet, far better) brother to Spielberg's monumental hit - Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line. For all the brutality on show (and in this sense, it really calls to mind Hacksaw Ridge), Berger isn't shy to quieten things down, and allow for his band of brothers to stare off into the silence and whispering trees.

And whilst the immediate hit of the warfare will be the most memorable, I think what set All Quiet on the Western Front apart, and show that maybe we aren't running out of ways to do this just yet, is the quieter, less immediate moments between the group of young men sent off to the frontline.

For as great as the battle sequences are here - and they are some of the best and most harrowing we've seen - there's no question that the film is aided by the poignant irony running through the narrative shown away from the gunfire and combat. Berger continues to pepper the story of Paul and his comrades with an underlying account of the efforts to negotiate the end of the war itself.

The idea that we're only potentially hours from the end of all of this - not to mention the callous and ill-judged decisions of some in power that provoke further conflict at the expense of the men on the ground - all adds up to provide an even more disheartening portrayal than if we'd simply stuck around for all the blood-letting and limb-lopping.

Never is this more apparent than the final passage of the film. There are two key moments - one a simple tragic turn, the other, a sense of the cumulative effect the whole film has been building to - that really heighten the impact of what went before.

It's possibly a touch too long in the early stages beyond the "Omaha moment", but by the end, I was grateful the film had taken its time with the characters and other developing stories, because the final payoff is all the more powerful for it.

There's a lot you will have seen before, but the moments that are fresh here make it worthy of your time.

Block or Report

𝗙𝗥𝗢𝗡𝗧 𝗥𝗢𝗪 liked these reviews