All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front ★★★

Remember this moment.

"War is Hell." I'm sure you haven't heard that before. I imagine there are at least a good group of people who believe that war films are overdone, or otherwise don't do much to actually impact how audiences look at and think of war. To that, I would think about how Come and See just overtook Parasite to be the highest-rated film of all-time here on Letterboxd in the past week, as well as how I believe "World War III" and "WWIII" trended on Twitter yesterday with tens of thousands of tweets based upon reports of a bombing that took place in Poland. So, call it doom and gloom for modern days, or just plain ol' hyperbole, I really don't think we'll ever not need war films. The newest widely-released entry in the genre is All Quiet on the Western Front, a remake for Netflix of a film from 1930 and a novel of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque. I state my following opinion on the film without having either seen the original film or read the original novel. With that out of the way, I do at face value get why this has seemed to receive raves from both critics and audiences alike: This film places nearly all of its chips on sound and vision. I often think that World War I is an underrepresented war in cinema, most portrayals of combat either going to World War II or Vietnam. So, it's automatically compelling to watch a film that so clearly puts an emphasis on realism and practical effects to portray the horrors of gas, tanks, drowning in your own blood while mud covers your entire body, and all the various ways in which a soldier can be shot or stabbed. This is a film that I feel like I should find better than I do, where I still find it decent and worth a watch for the curious, but there is not a lot to it that I think makes it deserving of thinking about in the upper echelon of war films. I'd want to say I wanted more out of the film's characters and portrayal of life outside of the war zone, yet I also think a notable strength of the film is its efforts to try to say its anti-war messages and bring forth moments of humanity in carnage without just verbalizing those desires. If there is one sequence that I think could alone make this a worthwhile viewing, without saying directly what happens of course, I was incredibly compelled by how "unfair" I think the ending of this is. I think of other war films, even some of my upper tier favorites in the genre, that try to find some sort of light at the end of everything even with everything horrifying that came before it. Beyond finding a moment to live up to its title, All Quiet on the Western Front bravely refuses to offer much solace. Instead of a breath or a "But hey, the war ended!" type moment, you sit in silence and have the statistics of casualties in World War I presented to you. If you didn't know how many soldiers actually died in that war, have fun trying to sleep the night you watch the film if you find out that way. Saying this is a "hard" watch should go without saying, and even if I'm mainly looking at it as "sturdy" with good motivations, this is a film that speaks through stares.


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