Youth & War Meet In Searing WWI Drama

Jan 15, 2023

Home Movie Reviews All Quiet On The Western Front Review: Youth & War Meet In Searing WWI Drama

The production design and cinematography add layers of authenticity reserved for only the best war movies, and the costumes genuinely feel lived in.

Writer-director Edward Berger, who co-wrote the screenplay with Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell, is not trying to reinvent the wheel with All Quiet on the Western Front, but it’s an effective adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, one that offers viewers something distinct. The performances are as realistic as the story it is telling. The production design and cinematography add layers of authenticity reserved for only the best war movies, and the costumes genuinely feel lived in. World War I films are a dime a dozen, and at a certain point they can all blend together, but All Quiet on the Western Front makes a strong case that it deserves to stand out from the herd.

Paul (Felix Kammerer) and his contemporaries romanticize the idea of patriotism and want to fight for Germany in World War I. His commitment is such that he lies about his age to enlist. After a rousing speech, he and his compatriots are certain they have made the right decision and head into battle. En route to a medical camp, his squadron has to give up their vehicle, so others can survive. On foot, the realities of battle begin to set in. Paul loses friends and nearly his mind in service to Germany and must learn what war means — not only to the world at large, but to himself.

Related: 10 Visceral War Movies Like All Quiet On The Western Front (2022)

All Quiet On The Western Front is not a particularly special film. It is in fact very straightforward in terms of plot. But just because it’s a certain type of story that’s been told over again, it doesn’t mean there isn’t something new to offer. In the case of All Quiet on the Western Front, a bevy of strong performances and an acceptance of history is all the film needs to stand out. Kammerer plays the part of the fool very well; his wide-eyed naiveté is acted to perfection. There are three key moments where he captivates with that same talent in different ways: When he is buying everything the military is selling him, when he is scared, and in the small, blissful moments when he is arrogant enough to think that happiness can last.

The supporting cast’s performances are effective as well. Every soldier is ramped up on adrenaline to the point that it’s very easy to believe they are willing to risk their lives. This is apparent even when they are joking around outside of battle. Albrecht Schuch gives a rousing performance as Paul’s illiterate comrade Stanislaus Katczinsky. As Kammerer’s character reads him a letter from home, Schuch emotes through held back tears and very few words. The resulting effect is gut-wrenching, and the actor seems to make time stop with his moving performance. In a much more limited role, Daniel Brühl’s portrayal of politician and writer Matthias Erzberger is calm, yet deep. His scenes are a testament to what believing the words on the page can do for a performance.

The themes expressed in All Quiet on the Western Front are subtle, but dig deep. As Brühl’s character tries to make larger-than-life humanitarian changes, Kammerer’s Paul believes in the power of one man’s ability to affect a cause. And characters like Schuch’s are already instilled in the system, but are so disillusioned by the current state of affairs that they are essentially sleepwalking through one of the most violent times in history. The action depicted in the film comes when one least expects it, but when it does, it hits hard.

The haunting shots of empty landscapes — that could be safe or riddled with enemies — make for an intense viewing experience. All Quiet On The Western Front does not live and die by each round of ammunition, it thrives through personal connections and incredible shots of stunned faces covered in soot. There is an inevitable dullness that sets in with period pieces like this one, but Berger has control of the screen and immerses the audience in a time when war was a focus.

Next: All Quiet On The Western Front Trailer Reveals Netflix’s Brutal WW1 Movie

All Quiet on the Western Front is streaming on Netflix as of October 28, and is also playing in select theaters. The film is rated R for strong bloody war violence and grisly images.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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