All Quiet On The Western Front (2022) tells a timeless story of loss, struggle and death on the fronts of the First World War.
Since its publication almost an entire century ago in 1928, Erich Maria Remarque’s revolutionary novel “All Quiet On The Western Front” has been adapted three separate times. The first was Lewis Milestone’s Academy Award-winning cinematic adventure merely two years after the book’s release, then came Delbert Mann’s revived and adapted project in the late ‘70s, and now, Edward Berger’s high-budget Netflix adaptation. And whilst all three films have their own collection of strengths and weaknesses, the most fascinating note of comparison is the ways in which they’re each subtly different. They all present the same story and the same characters, but the way that humanity’s understanding of World War I and its tragic consequences has gradually changed over time can be observed through the various ways in which these films differ from one another.
Milestone’s original adaptation is a story of anger and regret, drawn from an era that was still feeling the pain written in the words of the novel. Mann’s reimagining was less bitter, maintaining its sharp condemnations of war whilst offering a hint of sympathy and understanding towards the novel’s characters. And now, as we approach the centenary of this generation-defining conflict, Berger’s relentlessly violent and emotional take on “All Quiet On The Western Front” serves one single purpose – to completely deconstruct the concept of war, exposing all of its inherent flaws and ensuring that humanity never makes these fatal mistakes again.
Just like Remarque’s original story, 2022’s All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story of an overzealous young soldier named Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), who quickly finds himself out of his depth when he’s forced to confront the first-hand reality of the Great War. The film almost exclusively follows Paul throughout his journey in the German military, displaying in excruciating detail just how quickly warfare can ruin one’s life. It’s a devastating story, and whilst the subject matter is drawn from an era that’s long behind us, there’s something about the film that still feels chillingly relevant today. Which is fitting, because at the heart of the story is one central message – without peace and unity, warfare will continue to find itself dangerously used as a first resort where it shouldn’t even be used as a final one.
It’s been a long time since the war genre has seen an entry quite as powerful and brutal as this new take on All Quiet On The Western Front. The film doesn’t pull its punches in the slightest, but rather submerges its audience into the bloody trenches of World War I and tries its hardest to authentically mirror the experiences of soldiers on both sides of the conflict. From the intimate cinematography to the outstanding performances, every aspect of Berger’s film feels exceptionally real. There’s no structured story that pushes the narrative forward, and whilst that fact would usually be posed as criticism, All Quiet knows exactly how to use its messy storytelling and unpredictable progression to its advantage, mimicking the chaotic life of the soldiers on the screen. There are moments when barely anything happens, and there are moments when it’s hard to imagine that anything more could happen, which makes for one of the most exciting and tantalizing viewing experiences in recent memory.
In every single frame of All Quiet, you can feel just how much work has been put into the film’s craft – which is why its unceremonious appearance on Netflix is such a tragedy. The cinematography draws inspiration from films like Saving Private Ryan and 1917, offering a deeply immersive look into the life of a soldier through dynamic camera movements, sweeping battle sequences and intimate, emotional moments that really ground the story in reality. Kammerer’s lead performance is enough to keep the audience invested in every moment that he appears, but experiencing this level of vulnerability and defenselessness on the big screen would really elevate this project beyond its craft. It’s the kind of film that begs to be seen on the big screen, and the fact that many audiences won’t get to experience it this way is a real shame. If you get a chance, there are very few films that deserve the opportunity more.
The only issue with the film’s immense craft and gripping action sequences is that the quieter, less intense scenes can often feel less exciting in comparison. The constant switching between atmospheres can be a little jarring, but the film’s well-timed editing does a great job of keeping this under control. Other than that, there’s very little to criticize with All Quiet on the Western Front. It’s a brilliant adaptation of the novel, keeping all the important details the same whilst making enough astute changes to justify its own existence. Those who really harbor an interest in the ethical and moral implications of this section of history will easily find something to love in this latest Netflix release, and for many, it will go down as one of the finest war films out there.
All Quiet on the Western Front is out now in select theaters and will be released globally on Netflix on October 28, 2022.