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All Quiet on the Western Front (Movie Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film

SUMMARY

Edward Berger’s adaptation of the classic German novel is heavy on graphic violence, short on dialogue, and chilling in its display of Germany’s war dead lying on the fields which they failed to capture before their government ignominiously capitulated to the Allies on Armistice Day.

It has been nearly a century since the publication of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, the basis for this German remake of the classic American film version. Seen through the lens of a 17-year-old high school student, Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), writer-director Edward Berger has resurrected the unspeakable horrors of war, exposed in an opening sequence of a gray stretch of open field that is littered with countless bodies of dead German soldiers.

All Quiet on the Western Front returns to 1917 when Bäumer and his classmates get recruited to the German Army as World War I enters what will become its penultimate phase. Paul is under the minimum age for enlistment so he gets one of his classmates to forge an adult signature on his application. In short order, he and his young friends get a train ride to the Western Front in France as the German high command under Graf von Oberndorff (Sascha Nathan) orders the troops to break through miles of French trenches and reach Paris.

Bäumer gets immediately baptized in blood in the trenches where he watches his fellow soldiers get their heads blown off by Allied artillery.  Fortunately, Army veteran Corporal Stanislaus “Kat” Katczinsky (Albrecht Schuch) takes Paul under his wing and introduces him to the survival tactics that he did not learn during his abbreviated basic training. As the film progresses, we watch Paul’s transformation into a reluctant killer who tries unsuccessfully to revive a French soldier he has just stabbed to death in a trench and then spends the night next to the fresh corpse.

More than half of this already lengthy film focuses on the final days of World War I. leading up to signing of the Armistice treaty on November 11, 1918, by French General Ferdinand Foch (Thibault de Montalembert) and German emissary Matthias  Erzberger (Daniel Bruhl).

Where Berger’s script departs from the novel and the 1930 Oscar winner is how it subjugates storyline to the hyper-graphical depiction of the endless carnage that befalls the German army on the Western Front. Dialogue is sparse while Berger and his cinematographer Daniel Friend let their cameras’ coverage of seemingly endless combat do most of the talking over Volker Bertelmann’s ominous score. Unlike 1917, Sam Mendes’s high-speed war thriller shot in a single continuous take, All Quiet on the Western Front never quite reaches the dramatic heights of one soldier’s brave efforts to prevent the slaughter of British forces on the Western Front. Nonetheless, like its predecessor, this new film does make an unforgettable anti-war statement that still resonates in today’s war-torn world. With a first-rate cast and sensational footage, this is a must-watch account of the senselessness of combat for combat’s sake, as illustrated by the final charge of young German soldiers into the French-held trenches, knowing that their mission was hopeless. Highly recommended.

All Quiet on the Western Front is streaming now on Netflix


  • Rating Certificate: R (for strong bloody war violence and grisly images)
  • Studios & Distributors: Amusement Park Films | Rocket Science | Sliding Down Rainbows Entertainment | Netflix
  • Country: Germany | USA
  • Language: English | German | French
  • Run Time: 147 Mins.
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Director: Edward Berger
  • Written By: Edward Berger | Lesley Paterson | Ian Stokell
  • Release Date: 28 October 2022
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Edward Berger’s adaptation of the classic German novel is heavy on graphic violence, short on dialogue, and chilling in its display of Germany’s war dead lying on the fields which they failed to capture before their government ignominiously capitulated to the Allies on Armistice Day.All Quiet on the Western Front (Movie Review)
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