Back in the day, my 11th grade English teacher made the class read All Quiet on the Western Front. Unlike most of the other ancient artifacts he force-fed us, I really gave this one a go, mainly because I needed to boost my grade to remain on the soccer team. Though I didn’t actually finish the book - thank God for Cliff’s Notes! - I managed to squeak by with a C on my final. However, most of author Erich Maria Remarque’s anti-war themes were lost on me.
Just recently, I approached this latest film adaptation - the first actually produced in Germany - with a similar sense of obligation. This time, it was because the film just racked up a buttload of Oscar nominations and I like to see as many contenders as possible before the Big Night (which is sort-of like the Super Bowl at my house). Decades after trying to plow through the novel, I still associated the title more with impenetrable old literature than a war movie (a genre I generally enjoy). But with nothing to lose than a few hours on Netflix, I dutifully sat down to watch it…
…and was pretty much blown away. Though I still think Everything Everywhere All at Once deserved to sweep the Oscars this year, All Quiet on the Western Front runs a close second. It’s arguably the best war film since Dunkirk and the most harrowing one since Saving Private Ryan. Vivid, cynical and violent, it’s a compelling story punctuated by distressingly believable characters and uniformly great performances. The film is also a technical triumph, with excellent production design, tight editing and ominous music to underscore the grim tone. More importantly - to me, at least - the story’s overall theme is abundantly clear and repeatedly hammered home: the futility and utter insanity of war, especially when dictated by a misguided sense of national pride.
Not bad for a film with a budget that’s a fraction of a typical Hollywood production.
|Paul decides he's gonna give his two weeks' notice.|
I don’t recall much of the original novel, other than it didn’t really hold my attention, but that was obviously due more to my 17-year-old self than Remarque’s writing. And I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t yet seen the 1930 adaptation, which is widely considered definitive. However, this retelling of a classic story is a gripping, visceral experience in its own right, an epic war film that stands up to repeated viewings, especially in 4K.
4K & BLU-RAY COPIES
MAKING OF FEATURETTE - Running just under 20-minutes, this features numerous cast & crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By director Edward Gerger.
24 PAGE BOOKLET - Includes an interview with director Edward Berger and
TRAILERS & TV SPOTS