All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★½

Partially blaming war movie fatigue but didn't connect with this one quite as much as I'd hoped. On a technical level it's downright excellent with some of the year's best cinematography and a great otherworldly feeling to some of the battle sequences. It's committed to a gnarly, visceral depiction of war and sets its tone with an opening sequence that shows a young boy's pointless death on the front lines. The narrative structure is loose to a fault, failing to build a compelling arc outside of the battles which is for me where war movies need to set themselves apart. It ultimately never expands beyond "war is bad" in its thematic interests and while it is damn good at demonstrating that I was left wanting more. The character of Paul is never built out beyond being a youth thrown into the harsh reality of war or a sounding board for other characters sharing their backstory. I can see the merit in the way this keeps the audience zoomed out to a broader view of young men going to war - this is not the tragedy of Paul but of the generation of men he represents. However, despite Felix Kammerer's strong performance I don't think Paul makes enough of an impression as the anchor of the story. Not here to argue against a best picture nomination but I'd be upset if it won somehow.

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