‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ Review- A Brutal and Brilliant Film

All Quiet on the Western Front is a German war film that adapts the 1922 anti-war novel by Erich Maria Remarque. The movie is directed by Edward Berger and was widely released on Netflix.

In 1917, during the third year of World War I, Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) and his friends lie about their age to enlist in the German infantry with dreams of finding glory on the Western front. They meet an older soldier Stanislaus “Kat” Katczinsky (Albrecht Schuch) who befriends them and tries to guide them. Paul’s idealistic view of war is shattered on the first night when his friend Ludwig (Adrian Grünewald) is killed by shelling. As the war continues, Paul grows weary as his friends die all around him. In 1918, German diplomat Matthias Erzberger (Daniel Brühl) negotiates for an armistice much to the dismay of General Ferdinand Foch (Thibault de Montalembert) who wants to continue fighting. Paul and his friends continue to see the horrors of war as they long to return home.

I am frequently harsh in regard to European cinema. I often criticize it for being overly dreary, nihilistic, and gloomy in its storytelling. While this movie is certainly serious in tone and tragic in narrative, it is a brilliant story that explores the harsh reality of war.

The actors are incredible. Kammerer is truly amazing as the naive Paul who soon is forced to mature into becoming not a man, but a soldier. Likewise, Brühl performs the role of a German official desperately trying to save his nation from being destroyed in the midst of a seemingly endless war. Montalembert is also worth noting as the superior officer who essentially lives a life of luxury as his troops die of gunfire, disease, and starvation. The rest of the cast shine as well, putting in moving performances.

On that note, this is something I appreciated about the film. While the troops are stealing food from farmers to avoid starving to death, the brass are giving leftovers to their pets. While the troops are being shot, the brass are out of range and complaining about minor details.

Remarque wanted to lay out an anti-war narrative with this story. It is an enduring and important message that resonates today. This movie, certainly not the first adaptation of the novel, captures it perfectly. If I could find one fault in it, it is that it leaves out the scene where Paul returns home and is unrecognizable to his family. I would have liked to have seen that inserted, but I understand it was probably due to runtime.

This was truly a brilliant film that did not bog itself down with pretty effects, political correctness, or opulence. Instead, it stays truthful to the narrative and message of the novel, bringing about a truly brilliant movie that sticks with you long after the credits roll.

Bottom line, All Quiet on the Western Front is a beautiful but brutal movie that explores the harsh realities of war. No glorification of violence, but a gentle reminder that it is humans who fight in battle.

PARENTAL CONCERNS: Gory violence, Disturbing scenes, Some foul language

FAVORITE QUOTE: Every couple of minutes, the artillery barrage makes an advance forward. And directly after that, the infantry moves forward.

Check out the trailer below:

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Tell me if there is a comic book, movie, or novel you would like me to review. While you are at it, check out my reviews of Father Stu and Where The Crawdads Sing. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.

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