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

It’s the truth of modern war movies—or at least, the good—that they’re terrifying and exciting at the same time. You could say it’s a paradox that grows out of the dynamic, larger-than-life nature of the film medium. Or you could say that it is a fact that says something fundamental about war: that war continues, for all its terror and destruction and death, is that there is something in human nature that He is drawn to war. Movies, in their way, do that for us. Again, though, I’m talking about good people. There is no more powerful example than “Saving Private Ryan.” I’ve never seen a war movie more exciting, and I’ve never seen a war movie that made me confront, remember, the horror of bloodshed and the devastation of war.

By contrast, the new German version of “All Quiet on the Western Front” feels like an experience that has been cut to the bone – morally, spiritually and dramatically. Based on the 1928 novel by Eric Maria Remarque, this is not a film that tries to turn the infamous flesh-breaking horror of World War I trench warfare into some kind of “spectacle,” like Sam Mendes’ video game Apocalypse. “1917” did. The film’s protagonist, Paul Baumer (Felix Kamer), is a student who has spent three years in the war and joins the Imperial German Army to fight for his homeland. He is soon sent to the Western Front, a place where millions of soldiers have already gone to their deaths in what is essentially a brutal turf war where no swords exchange hands.

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During the war, there was little land “grabbing” on the Western Front. The front line position never extended more than half a mile. So why were all those soldiers killed? Without any reason. Due to a tragic – one might say obscene – historical accident: that in WWI, the tools of war were caught between the old, “classic” stationary warfare and the new reality of long-range killing made possible by technology. . By the end of the war, 17 million men had fallen between those cracks.

The 1930 Hollywood version of All Quiet on the West Bank, directed by Lewis Milestone, is widely considered an anti-war landmark. But, of course, if you watch it now, the battle scenes won’t scare the audience like they did a century ago. The bar of terror and murder on screen is much higher than that. Edward Berger, director of the new “All Quiet,” stages his war scenes in what are standard-issue bombs-burning-on-the-ground, debris-flying-everywhere, war-is-hell-because-violence-is-the Random mode of ruthless destruction. He does it competently, but no better; He does not reach the level of imagination that we have in the war cinema of Spielberg, Kubrick, Coppola, Stone, Klimov. Coming out of the trenches, Paul and his fellow soldiers face a merciless hail of bullets, they are buried in mud, they are shot in the gut or head, they are attacked with bayonets and machetes. .

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Yet the pale, soft-hearted Pal, whose newly issued uniform is cast from the corpse of a dead soldier (a point that alludes to the never-ending cycle of death in WWI), somehow fights on and survives. He strikes us as a gentle young man, yet inside he is a ruthless killer. By shooting one soldier, then stabbing another, he was indeed a desperate action hero, and I have shown this only because I am especially convinced of his intelligence on the battlefield. Not found eligible. Berger, as a filmmaker, wants to bring us “closer” to the war, but the horror of “All Quiet in the West” is in-your-face and pure in its presentation. Maybe that’s why it feels so awkward.

Great war movies are not interested in mixing personal drama into the war. They define the characters as interesting and the theater of their violence. But the new “All Quiet on the West Coast” is a two-and-a-half-hour dramatic minimum, as if that’s some measure of the film’s perfection. Soldiers, including Paul, are barely depicted, and you are visibly relieved when the film descends to traditional scenes of the German deputy, Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Bruhl), as he tries to make peace with the French generals. . The German army was defeated. Conversation is one-sided; The French, who hold all the cards, want to surrender on their terms. But we record the incredible resentment of the German officers behind Erzberger, which will certainly carry over into the next war.

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Stanley Kubrick, with “Walk of Honor,” made what is still the greatest film about trench warfare, and he wasn’t shy about involving us in the real drama. “All Quiet on the Western Front” continues with the lumber, so that even once the armistice is over, there is yet another war incident, all to show with the stark irony of the tragedy that in the First World War The body count was increasing without any reason. Any sane person would agree with that. Yet “All Quiet on the West Bank” is a war film as a thesis statement. It continues to make its point, leaving you less devastated than empty.


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