Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Directed by Edward Berger

Starring Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer


Probably the most horrifying war movie I’ve seen, with vivid grit and graphic brutality that eclipses even Saving Private Ryan and 1917. In this one, we have an interestingly sympathetic German perspective, but in the end, we get the familiar statement about the senselessness and futility and tragedy of war.

We’re thrown into the middle of war and follow the characters’ journey until the end. The end of the war is dramatized and nicely grounds us in Paul’s world, but it might have been helpful to see something similar for the beginning of the war, not only to give us the historical background but also to similarly ground us at the beginning of Paul’s journey. Some screentime around the beginning of the war would have been a good opportunity to give us some background on Paul, learning where he came from, who he would be thinking about back home, what he would want to return to. It’s a bit more effort, but I think it would have heightened the drama.

The cast is mostly unfamiliar, at least to me, which makes their performances, and more specifically, the direction of their performances, very impressive. We have a very confident characters being convincingly played by mostly below average looking people. This subtlety is authentic to the period and authentic to much of Europe and goes a long way to making things feel real. Even today, you’d never see performances like this from people who look like this in an American film, regardless of the period the film is set.

Felix Kammerer, as Paul, gives us an incredible debut performance. I’m shocked he hasn’t done much acting before or since. Paul has the same oafish, deer-in-the-headlights look as George MacKay’s Schofield in 1917. That archetype really seems to work for war movies. He’s even got an Anthony Michael Hall quality that, at least for American audiences, might subconsciously sell his youthful innocence. There’s also something really magnetic and soulful to the performance from his friend Kat, played wonderfully by Albrecht Schuch. Daniel Brühl, as the only recognizable face, gives the ensemble cast a nice anchor.

The film is long, but the pacing is right. There are slower scenes, but they are always rich in detail or suspense. Not once did I feel like the film was dragging.

Wonderfully shot, with short, contemplative, hauntingly beautiful interludes reminiscent of Terrence Malick films. Stings in the score, however, seem inconsistently and awkwardly placed. Their anachronistic electronic sound takes me out of the film for a few moments at a time.

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