‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ Review: Dutifully Competent and Dull

It’s true of modern war movies – or, at least, the best ones – that they are scary and interesting at the same time. You could say that this is a contradiction that grows out of the kinetic, larger than life aspect of the film. Or you could say that it’s a fact that shows something important about war: that the reason why war continues, because of its horror and destruction and death, is that there is something in human nature to be drawn into war. Movies, in their way, do this for us. Again, I mean good things. There is no scene more powerful than “Saving Private Ryan.” I’ve never seen a war movie that made me happier, and I’ve never seen a war movie that made me feel better, especially those who remember, the inexorable fear of bloodshed and the destruction of war.

In contrast, the new German version of “All Quiet on the Western Front” is like an experience stripped to the bone – in style, spirit, and size. Based on the 1928 novel by Erich Maria Remarque, it is not a film that tries to turn the horror of the trench warfare of the First World War into some kind of “vision,” the way of Sam Mendes’ video-game apocalypse. . “1917” did. The hero of the film is Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), a student who joins the Imperial German army to fight for the motherland. He was immediately sent to the Western Front, where millions of soldiers lost their lives in what was essentially a homicidal turf war where the turf did not change hands.

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During the war, there was little land “grabbing” in the Western Hemisphere; the area of ​​the front line did not advance more than half a mile. Why did those soldiers die? For no reason. As a result of an unfortunate – one might say cruel – historical accident: in WWI, there was a conflict between an old, “classical” form of permanent combat and the new reality of long-term destruction as far as technology is concerned. By the end of the war, 17 million people had fallen between those cracks.

The 1930 Hollywood version of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” directed by Lewis Milestone, was widely regarded as a national anti-war film. But really, if you look at it now, people don’t freak out about war the way they did a century ago. The bar has been raised for horror and death on screen. Edward Berger, the director of the new “All Quiet”, begins his war scenes in what has become a classic of bullets-hitting-the-ground, flying-garbage-everywhere , the war-is-hell-because-of-its violence. – the same kind of non-destruction. He does well, but no better than that; He doesn’t even begin to touch the level of imagination that has captured us in the war theater of Spielberg, Kubrick, Coppola, Stone, Klimov. Jumping out of the trenches, Paul and his fellow soldiers found themselves in a merciless hail of bullets, pinned to the ground, shot in the stomach or head. , they were attacked with bayonets and knives. .

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However, the down-to-earth Paul, whose clothes are repurposed from the corpse of a fallen soldier (a number meant to represent the never-ending cycle of death in WWI), fights on and survives. He strikes us as a mild-mannered young man, but there is a vicious killer inside him. The bullet that shoots one soldier, then stabs another, makes him, in a sense, a villain, and I’m the only one because I don’t know his skills on the battlefield. . Berger, as a filmmaker, likes to bring us “closer” to war, but the horror in “All Quiet on the Western Front” is in your face and pure in its presentation. Maybe that’s why it’s missing.

The big war movies don’t hesitate to add personal games to the war. They present images that are as edgy and defined as their theater of violence. But the new “All Quiet on the Western Front” is two and a half hours of dramatic minimalism, which seems to be a measure of the film’s merits. The soldiers, even Paul, are not pictured in it, and you are relieved when the film cuts to the usual scenes of German vice-chancellor Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Brühl), although he trying to make peace with the French generals. defeated the German army. Negotiations are one-sided; The French, who hold all the cards, want to give their word. But we will register, after Erzberger, the unrelenting anger of the Germans, which will be brought forward in the next war.

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Stanley Kubrick, with “Paths of Glory,” made the best film about trench warfare, and he didn’t shy away from introducing us to the real drama. “All Quiet on the Western Front”, therefore, when the armistice was published, there was a new fighting event, which all show, showing a great demoralization, the number is still increasing World War I for no reason. Thoughtful people will agree to that. But “All Quiet on the Western Front” is as much a war movie as a thesis statement. He continues on his way, leaving you empty-handed.


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