Movie Review: “All Quiet On The Western Front”


By Nicholas Kitay

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” is a fascinating story depicting the struggles of German teens in the German Imperial Army in World War I.

Going against the grain of what is typically seen from war movies, this film is brutally poetic.

Released on Oct. 14, 2022, the movie paints a picture of what German soldiers experienced during the World War I. Adapted from the novel written by Erich Maria Remarque, this film has been nominated for nine Oscars, including in the categories of best picture, best music and best writing.

Director Edward Berger has created one of the most poignant war movies of this century. It’s less of a grueling action-packed war film and more of a human-interest story that tracks the experiences of a group of young recruits.

Felix Kammerer stars as Paul Baumer, a German teen who enlists in World War I in the hopes of proving himself on the battlefield, only to realize the harsh reality of war.

Daniel Bruhl plays Matthias Erzberger, who signed the armistice between Germany and the Allied Powers – an unusually subtle role for Bruhl, who executes it well. The acting in this movie is a treat, with a majority of the scenes being an emotional roller coaster enhanced by clever cinematography.

Set in the latter years of World War I, teenager Baumer and his friends join the German Imperial Army. With the hopes of becoming heroes and going to prove themselves to their country, their romantic ideals of war are quickly shattered by the brutality of trench warfare. With every day that the war rages on, death becomes not a matter of if, but when.

The cinematography is masterful in this movie. From the the depth of field to the visual effects, every scene of this move is well-crafted and accompanied by superb acting and a moving film score.

The pacing of the movie is slower than the average war movie, like “Fury,” but it strikes a good balance between scenes of tranquility and scenes of chaos. At two hours and 28 minutes long, “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a must-watch, from beginning to end.

The plot is, without a doubt, heavy and rooted in immense sorrow. Cruelty and the bleakness of life run rampant throughout the scenes. There are non-action sequences that provide a much-needed break from the intensity of the film, but even these are not devoid of pure, raw emotion.

While this film succesfully brings to life the characters of Remarque’s critically-acclaimed novel, it does leave out scenes from the book that would have painted a better picture of the characters’ psyches.

For example, the movie does not include the scenes in which Baumer realizes that the home he once knew had become more foreign than the battlefield. Moreover, much of Baumer’s backstory is kept to a minimum. Perhaps, Berger sacrificed a more developed back story in the pursuit of a more thematic film.

Initially, Remarque’s anti-war novel was banned by the Nazis. Later on, the book was made a set text at many schools across modern Germany, according to The Guardian.

Hubert Wetzel, a reporter with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, has been critical of the recent film despite his appreciation for Remarque’s novel, which he considers to be one of the most important German novels ever written.

“One wonders at times whether director Berger has even read Remarque’s novel,” Wetzel said. “In any case, as a rough estimate, eight or more tenths of the film consists of scenes that have not only little to do with the book, but nothing at all.”

Although the film strays from the book, in more ways than one, it still provides a detailed look into the cruel war that defined the early 20th century and bore significant consequences in the cultural landscape of the international system as a whole.

For fans of heart-stirring, dramatic war thrillers, this movie is exactly that. While the film may not do Remarque’s novel complete justice, it is no doubt an excellent introduction to interested readers of Remarque’s literature and a good visual supplement to current readers.