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  • Writer's pictureSteve

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

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By all other accounts, I was in two minds about this Netflix remake. Part of me wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The other part of me was reluctant due to nothing more than realising what the fuss was all about. I'm not a war movie fan as such, having long disparaged the legitimacy of combat, even when all else fails. It is a quintessentially human thing to do, and therefore, an inevitably imperfect pursuit by equally imperfect animals.

With regards to authenticity, I wasn't around at the time and neither were you, so to claim it as authentic is hearsay. It seems grim enough just by looking at it, and if we're led to believe that war isn't fun, then this would be at least one similar representation of it. Whether this is heightened for the purposes of entertainment, it wouldn't be the first time. If it's doing the opposite, then it isn't, as many have claimed, a true reflection of the experience and the message it is trying to get across.

Aside from the obvious then, is it any good? Without hesitation I would have to suggest it is one of the best films you will see this year. In each incarnation over the years, it is a tale of horror and tragedy, the stupidity of war and the enduring ignominy of man as a species.

As a message this is not only valid, but demonstrably represented here, warts and all. It doesn't shy away from the horror of mankind's weaknesses against themselves or the pointlessness of it all, throwing innocent men on both sides into a conflict that will, with the grace of whichever God you aspire to, kill them quickly and painlessly as possible. If only every bad thing transpired with due diligence and speed, then pointless and needless suffering in a time of conflict may hold at least one redeemable feature.

Set in November 1918, just before the end of the war, with the Germans beginning to understand that they simply couldn't win, most of the running time features events on the Western Front line and the experiences of one giddy and enthusiastic German soldier, recently signed up and ready for anything, so he believes. He imagines, along with his equally blinkered friends, that they will be celebrating victory in Paris within the week.

With an absolutely astonishing performance from Felix Kammerer as Paul Baumer and the ugly cinematography that cheapens lives in every frame, this is a sight to behold, even if it is for all the wrong reasons. We intermittently shift focus to the German high command, many miles from the front line, who are as aware as anyone that if a cease-fire is not forthcoming from the French (which it patently isn't) then surrender may be the only option, for the sake of humanity, if nothing else. A German, admitting defeat? Surely not.

It's highly likely that you know the outcome of this story already, but maybe not Paul's story. As such, I will leave it at this point, so as not to ruin what is inarguably a traumatic and uncomfortable project, delivered with skill, attention to detail and tragic consideration.


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