I watched All Quiet on the Western Front, which dropped on Netflix on October 28.
This movie is visually stunning and emotionally draining. It’s a war epic of equal magnitude to 1917 or Saving Private Ryan. The producers did not cut any corners. The period details in this film are meticulous. It must have been very expensive to make.
All Quiet on the Western Front keeps you glued to the screen for all of its 147 minutes. The characters are not particularly memorable; but they’re human enough to make you empathize with their plight. You get a real sense of the misery and terror of World War I combat.
As viewers, we are more familiar with films about World War II than World War I. This is partly because filmmaking was still in its infancy when the First World War ended, but also because World War I offers less inviting subject matter.
World War II offers clear moral lines and, therefore, endless opportunities for redemptive movie plots. For all of our lives, the Nazis have been the personification of evil in the Western imagination, and not without reason. The Japanese imperialists, who raped and pillaged across Asia, were not far behind. The war to defeat them is widely viewed as worth the cost.
World War I, though, not so much. Few people can succinctly state what World War I was really about, because people were unsure at the time. Almost all historians agree that World War I was a wasteful endeavor in both resources and human life.
Nor did the Allied victory in World War I fulfill its promises. World War I was not the war to end all wars, and it did not make the world safe for democracy. World War I gave us the Soviet Union and global communism. World War I paved the way for Adolf Hitler, the Nazis, and the carnage of World War II.
All Quiet on the Western Front is therefore bleak, as movies about World War I tend to be. You’ll be enthralled by this movie. You may or may not enjoy it.
There is little in the way of subplot. There is no romance. There aren’t even any female characters. This is a somewhat narrow story about men at war in Europe in 1917 and 1918, with an emphasis on a handful of German soldiers. If you’re looking for a sprawling, diverse cast, with lots of complex, interwoven storylines, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Nevertheless, this movie is worth the 2.5 hours it will take from your life. It really is a well-made film.