Netflix’s ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ is an anti-war epic which is based on the eponymous 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque. It focuses on a young German soldier named Paul Bäumer who enlists in the army with his friends but soon faces the catastrophe of war and death.
Warning: This article contains heavy spoilers
All Quiet on the Western Front opens in 1917, the third year of the First World War. A German boy named Paul Bäumer lies about his age, forges his father’s signatures on his form and joins the army.
Along with his three friends Albert Kropp, Franz Muller, and Ludwig Behm, Paul follows a group of new recruits to the Western Front, joining the 78th Reserve Infantry Regiment.
He also meets and befriends Stanislaus “Kat” Katczinsky and Tjaden Stackfleet in the trenches. The offensive against the French is at its peak, and these young boys get their first taste of war soon after as heavy artillery fire rains down their position.
Unfortunately, Ludwig perishes and Paul is tasked with collecting dog tags from the bodies of his fallen comrades. He breaks down when he sees his deceased friend.
18 months later, Paul’s regiment moves to Champagne, France, which is a comparatively peaceful location amid the ongoing horrors of the war.
However, as the death toll climbs, the German authorities opt to negotiate peace with the French, but German General Friedrichs has other plans. He does send a delegation, led by Matthias Erzberger, to talk peace, but doesn’t want it.
Instead, he goes on the offensive and orders a full fledged attack on the Western Front, sending Paul and his friends into death’s embrace once again.
The acting in this film is phenomenal. All characters that the narrative focuses on are portrayed with expertise, and emote the horrors of war in a way that tug at your heart strings.
Felix Kammerer leads the film as Paul Bäumer and steals every scene he’s in. To witness his transformation from an enthusiastic teen to a war hardened soldier who fights while gradually coming to terms with the futility of war, is goosebumps worthy. It is his character’s relatability that hits home.
Daniel Brühl, Albrecht Schuch, Moritz Klaus, Aaron Hilmer, Adrian Grünewald, Edin Hasanovic, and Devid Striesow, among others make up the rest of the cast that shines at every step.
All Quiet on the Western Front is brimming with positives that make it such an amazing and immersive experience.
Firstly, it is a great adaptation that does justice to Remarque’s book. Director Edward Berger portrays themes of trauma, loss, suicide, grief and more with immense precision and care.
Another stellar aspect of the film is its anti-war narrative. It is heartbreaking to witness the loss of innocent human life because of the egos of superior officers, who were too proud for peace. Paul’s point-of-view acts as a window of realisation for the audience as well, creating a gut-wrenching experience.
Furthermore, the filmmaking techniques reign superior. Everything from background music, cinematography and sound effects to editing, costumes and set design is immaculate.
The battle sequences feel authentic and are less gory than recent war films which make them comparatively easier to digest. However, that does not take away any intensity from them.
The writing and the pacing give equal attention to character driven moments and brutal war scenes, creating an atmosphere that begs for attention, but never gets boring.
Where the film lacks slightly is in its structuring and letting the audience know where the characters are. There are a couple of signs stating what year or place it is, but the story moves around a lot, making it slightly hard to keep up with.
Furthermore, a minor flaw that comes with the genre is the inability follow characters in heavy battle scenes. Understandably, the chaos is what makes war feel authentic but you still like to stay connected with the people you know in those moments.
All Quiet on the Western Front is one of the greatest war films of modern times (ranking up there with the likes of ‘1917’, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’, and ‘Dunkirk’), and deserves a place on everyone’s watchlist. The negatives are just minor nitpicks that take nothing away from the brilliance this film oozes.
It does turn into a slow burn as it heads towards the final act, but the stellar acting prevents it from ever falling off the wagon.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Director: Edward Berger
Date Created: 2022-10-30 11:57