I may have just watched this year’s Academy Award winner for Best International Feature Film on Netflix.
Based on the 1929 novel of the same name, this is the new German version of the classic war movie All Quiet on the Western Front debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last month and arrived on Netflix today, and this was completely epic.
Teenagers Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) and his friends Albert (Aaron Hilmer) and Müller (Moritz Klaus) decide to enlist in the German Army during the days of World War I. They were excited and thrilled to runoff to war, with images of glory flashing through their eyes.
Unfortunately for them, their passions did not last long when they arrived at the front and they discovered the horrors that the soldiers of World War I had to face. Reality was harsh and heartless.
All Quiet on the Western Front was bleak, painful, and brutal. There have not been near as many movies based in World War I than in World War II. A few years ago, 1917 became one of the best films of the year by using the historical setting. Now, All Quiet on the Western Front takes the anguish to a new level.
Felix Kammerer did not have a film credit since 1998 until he led this film as Paul. Kammerer was amazingly compelling with every second he is on screen, suffering through the loss of his wide-eyed innocence and the realization of how much pain and randomness war brought to his life.
The film spared nothing in the area of violence and brutality. It showed the horrors of the battlefield, especially in the trench warfare on the Western Front which was one of the most horrid areas of loss of life in the bloody war. You could not take a breath as the characters ran across the field with bombs exploding and guns firing at them. Adding to the tension of the situation, the film employed one of the most anxiety creating scores that I have heard in years. The sudden pounding bursts kept me anxious and off-balance, creating a fantastic mood.
It was also pretty cool when, after a group of actors who I did not know, suddenly there was the ever awesome Daniel Brühl as a German Matthias Erzberger. Brühl is always an amazing actor and he never fails to be anything but excellent.
You can’t help but sit and watch All Quiet on the Western Front with a tight feeling in your gut. You can never be sure what was going to happen next and the helplessness or hopelessness is strong, bringing an ache inside you.
The epic war film is brilliantly put together and difficult to watch.