I finally caught up with ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (2022), a Netflix original which hails from Germany and is currently nominated for Best Picture.
It’s a worthy nomination. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is an excellent movie.
Released in October 2022, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT is based on the book by Erich Maria Remarque, a novelist who based the book on his experiences as a German soldier in World War I. This is the third time Remarque’s novel has been filmed, the previous two were in 1930 and in 1979. This 2022 version is an all-German production, and you can watch it on Netflix in its original German language with English subtitles.
Directed by Edward Berger, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT tells a story of the horrors of war that transcends generations. While the horrors shown here are specific to World War I, the case can be made that the horrors of war remain consistent regardless of time or place.
Here the plot follows young German soldier Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer) who is so excited to enlist and join the war effort that his wide-eyed expressions resemble a child opening gifts on Christmas morning. It doesn’t take long for Paul and his friends to realize that fighting in the trenches is anything but enjoyable and is an experience that has his friends shrieking that they want to go home once the battles start.
Director Edward Berger holds nothing back in the battle sequences. The ever-present mud is thick and relentless. When they’re not fighting, the soldiers are using their hands and helmets to dish out the cold water from the trenches. And when they are fighting, they are shot at, stabbed, hacked, and more. We see soldiers burned alive with flame throwers, trampled upon by tanks, and blown up by grenades. The action here is bloody, brutal, and relentless, and these sequences come in waves, at the film’s beginning, in the middle, and at the end.
Between battles, Paul bonds with some of his fellow soldiers, including Stan Katczinsky (Albrecht Schuch). We’re privy to conversations where they discuss their lives back home, and their fears that they will never return, which pretty much turns out to be true. The film also depicts the negotiations between German diplomats and the French for a ceasefire, as the Germans realize they are losing the war. They quickly learn that the French want total and unconditional surrender, and when the Germans protest to the conditions, claiming that they are too harsh, and the people will not like this peace, the French pretty much respond with a big fat “too bad.” And of course, it’s this approach that led to the rise of Adolf Hitler, as he was able to take advantage of the despondent German population to build his nationalistic Nazi regime.
The German military also bristled at this peace, believing the diplomats were giving everything away, and they ordered soldiers to fight right up until the 11:00 armistice.
Director Edward Berger also co-wrote the screenplay with Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell. The story told here describes in vivid detail the absolute horrors of trench warfare in World War I, and what war does to soldiers. Its message is also timeless, as here in 2023 the world continues to be at war in some place or other.
Not all of the movie works. It’s rather long, clocking in at two hours and twenty-eight minutes, and when the film isn’t showing in-your-face scenes of warfare, it’s less compelling.
The film will no doubt draw comparisons to another recent superior movie about World War I, 1917 (2019), by writer/director Sam Mendes. The two films are comparable, and in terms of quality and impact, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT certainly holds its own against 1917.
Overall, ALL QUIET ON WESTERN FRONT is a superb movie, one that delivers its message that war is hell, and that soldiers pay a high price for decisions made by generals and leaders not on the battlefield.
I give it three and a half stars.
Four stars – Perfect, Top of the line
Three and a half stars- Excellent
Three stars – Very Good
Two and a half stars – Good
Two Stars – Fair
One and a half stars – Pretty Weak
One star- Poor
Zero stars – Awful
If you enjoy my reviews and would like to read my latest horror novel, then feel free to check out DEMON AT THE DOOR at the link below: