All Quiet on the Western Front Review – Visually Arresting, A Cinematic Masterpiece

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All Quiet on the Western Front, a Netflix Original, presents a visually arresting tale of World War I, that follows four young men eager to leave their village for the excitement of war on the front.

The film begins with a snare drum beat and the battlefield littered with dead soldiers. Through the next scenes we follow the burial of the men, who are stripped of their uniforms, and then the camera follows the uniforms as they are returned to Germany, washed, cleaned, mended and the reissued. We understand through this introduction the recycling of the unforms represents the next wave of men heading out to the western front and the expectation that they will meet the same fate.

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The scene cuts to a jubilant group of four young men, three of whom have received their parents’ permission to enlist, the fourth, Paul, played by Felix Kammerer, has not and swears he is not going to be left behind.

He forges his father’s signature and soon he is issued the recycled uniform. He quickly notices the name tag of the dead solider a seamstress left and when he brings it to the commanding officer’s attention, he jokes about it not fitting, and happens all the time.

Soon, the four, Paul, Albert, played by Aaron Hilmer, Franz, played by Mortiz Klaus, and Tjaden, played by Edin Hasanovic are heading to the front. Typical greenies, singing songs of futures unaware of the hell that awaits them. With a belief of duty, and pride for signing their death certificate, the four soon realize that to stay alive they will need more than hope.

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In minutes, the initial euphoria of war turns into desperation and fear as they fight for their lives, and each other, in the trenches. Paul and his comrades experience first-hand the hell of war, and as they sit in the bunkers listening to the earth shake as bombs fall all around them, instantaneously panic hits them and while some are able to endure as the bunker begins to cave one cannot, he begins to run for the door is hit with a bomb, and the CO realizes they are about to be hit and screams the orders to exit, just before the shelter falls in on those who don’t make it out.

Of course, and there is a ominous feeling that one of these four will die in the first battle. Paul, who was buried alive in the blast survives and is soon given the task of pulling dog tags of the dead. They grow up quick after this battle and with the help of Stanislaus, played by Albrecht Schuch, they learn the ropes of survival.

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All Quiet on the Western Front is a cinematic masterpiece. It is gripping, raw, riveting, and intense. For historians the scenes are presented with authenticity, with the scars of war on the land, the men, even the leaders accompanied by deeply disturbing images. The scenes are extremely powerful, as these soldiers remain dedicated to a lost cause. There are also moments of levity, as life in wartime stirs the imagination with thoughts of home, and all the pleasures possible.

The film presents the last nine months of the war including the negotiations for a cease fire and armistice. The stark differences between those who have everything to lose and those who have nothing to lose are vivid and shocking.

All Quiet on the Western Front, a powerful and hypnotic tale of war, begins streaming on Netflix October 28, 2022. See it.

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Country: Germany.

Language: German, English, French with English subtitles.

Runtime: 147 minutes.

Directed by Edward Berger.

Written by Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson, Ian Stokell.

Produced by Malte Grunert, Daniel Dreifuss, Edward Berger.

Cast: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer, Moritz Klaus, Edin Hasanovic, Adrian Grünewald, with Thibault De Montalembert, with Daniel Brühl, and Devid Striesow.

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