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Review: All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Directed by: Edward Berger

Premise: An adaptation of the novel by Erich Maria Remarque. A group of young German men enlist in the military during World War I and are sent to the Western Front. They encounter the horrific conditions of trench warfare while German officials try to negotiate a ceasefire.

What Works: The novel All Quiet on the Western Front has been adapted to film several times. The 2022 version takes advantage of contemporary filmmaking techniques that have become common in the war genre since Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. The movie recreates the World War I battlefield with detail. The filmmakers do an excellent job conveying the fear and misery of life in the trenches. All Quiet on the Western Front has become such a popular text about war because of its sense of doom and the way that war infects everyone at the front with hopelessness. That quality is very well captured in this film. The soldiers are giddy before their arrival at the front lines, having idealized what war will be like, and those illusions are quickly dashed. However, 2022’s All Quiet on the Western Front is not all combat. The filmmakers allow for a lot of calm moments that contrast with the battle scenes but event these scenes are tinted by despair. This film evades some of the cliches of war films. A lot of these pictures usually begin with a requisite scene establishing characters who usually fit a certain profile. While some of that is true here, the filmmakers allow the characters to emerge gradually over the course of the story as we get details of their background. This version of All Quiet on the Western Front is also distinguished by the way it expands upon the novel. The story is set near the end of the war and the film includes a subplot of German civilian officials trying to find a peaceful solution while military officers protest. This storyline creates additional tension while also deepening the meanings of the film.

What Doesn’t: The armistice subplot is the one part of the movie where the illusion sometimes falters. The Treaty of Versailles created the conditions that would lead to World War II and some of the characters are just a little too aware of that. Those moments come across artificial in an otherwise organic movie. All Quiet on the Western Front is a famous anti-war novel and there is an inherent tension in adapting that kind of story to cinema. Even grotesque depictions of war seen in Saving Private Ryan and Platoon and Hacksaw Ridge inherently make combat an exciting spectacle. 2022’s All Quiet on the Western Front definitely falls in that tradition and, despite the filmmaker’s earnest efforts, the film occasionally takes on the feel of the videogame Call of Duty.

Disc extras: Available on Netflix.

Bottom Line: 2022’s All Quiet on the Western Front is a grim but well-crafted adaption of the classic novel. The filmmakers expand the story in ways that remain true to the source material. It’s a unique adaptation that’s distinguishes itself from other versions.

Episode: #927 (November 13, 2022)