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All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front (Netflix)

This German remake doesn't have much to do with the source material.

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All Quiet on the Western Front

I remember reading Erich Maria Remarque's novel All Quiet on the Western Front in school as a kid. I knew back then that the story takes place during World War I's western front, and focuses on the German side of the war. What I didn't know, was that the author of the novel was himself a combat veteran of WWI. The book has now been made into a movie three times: the first was in 1930, the second in 1979, but we had to wait until 2022 to see a German version of a German novel about the Germans in the first world war.

It is spring 1917, and a group of young students decide to answer the call of the fatherland, and become soldiers. War ends up being a lot more brutal than they thought, and it is possible, that none of them will live to tell the tale about their experiences. The story is not original by any means, but then again, the novel itself was published back in 1928.

The movie fails in a big way in how it represents its characters. Everyone is just a faceless dude with almost zero personality. Because of this, the viewer sees the characters as a member of a social hierarchy, whether it's a politician negotiating about peace, an acting general leading his troops or a young grunt in a fox hole hugging his rifle during artillery shelling. Paper thin characters are a real problem, because the viewer doesn't care that much about the people on screen. This is just the movie's problem, because the novel itself had clearly established characters.

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Another problem is that the movie has very little to do with the book. For some reason the movie includes a young dude in the trenches, but also the generals and politicians. This creates too big of a contrast, and hurts the impact of the movie. There was a real potential to be a monumental classical war movie like Saving Private Ryan or Das Boot, but unfortunately All Quiet on the Western Front fails to reach that level.

It needs to be said that the movie looks, feels and sounds just as good as you possibly can imagine. The scenery, clothes, set pieces, special effects and so on really look like World War I. And a big infantry attack against machine gun nests really looks like one in all its brutality. Feeling cold, being wet, surrounded by mud, and being dirty are all made very clear, because the camera is usually very close to the action. Music usually manages to enhance the mood, but not always.

People interested in history and war movies should watch this German version of All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen nichts Neues), and after that I recommend reading the novel too. With more focus on the characters this new movie would have had the potential to be a classic, but as it is now, the movie looks good, and has a plot that is "passable".

All Quiet on the Western Front
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07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
overall score
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