- Hamish Hart
All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) Review
OSCAR season is upon us once again with 10 widely-different films looking to take home the illustrious Best Picture Academy Award. Edward Berger looks to make history with his 9-time Oscar nominated remake of All Quiet on the Western Front, but can history repeat itself 93 years following the iconic Best Picture win of Lewis Milestone's revolutionary war epic?
Adapted from Erich Maria Remarque's German war novel of the same name, All Quiet on the Western Front follows four young German men who get enlisted to battle on the infamous western front during World War I. The story follows each man, primarily Paul Baumer (Felix Kammerer), through the journey of how the World War turns their optimistic, excitable attitudes into ones cluttered with misery and hopelessness.
Having seen the original there are things to love and hate about each version. The 1930's version was certainly ahead of its time, implementing revolutionary practical effects and an outstanding sense of tension made all the better by its screenplay and genuine chemistry between its leading cast. While Berger's adaption has quite alot of love about it, many of its qualities are sadly overshadowed by lack of suspense and a conflicting tone; two very important elements needed for an anti-war propaganda film.
After watching All Quiet on the Western Front and then learning the films was nominated for 9 Oscars this year, I was flabbergasted. The film definitely deserves some of its nominations, but I would say roughly 4, including Best International Feature, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Sound. These categories emphasize this adaption is an extraordinary technical achievement for film, but while it excels in these divisions its unfortunately falls short in capturing the emotion needed for a movie trying to showcase the grotesque, bitter side of war. The original film took its time to properly establish each character and develop their excitement for war before slowly transitioning into the western front, thus making the audience care about them upon realising the life-altering mistakes they've been thrust into. Berger's adaption fails to do this by having the film begin during the war, spoiling the experience and not giving any of the characters history prior to being sent west except for one scene of miscellaneous soldiers being psyched-up by their superiors. A simple scene of the younger boys at their homes with their families would have elevated the weight behind their inevitable fates and would allow the audiences to care more as a result.
Despite this review containing alot of negative words towards the movie, All Quiet on the Western Front is not a bad film, but its biggest problem is that it isn't a great one. Edward Berger tries to create an anti-war movie while simultaneously trying to craft a technical war epic; two very different styles which end up clashing rather than melding. Technically the movie is a joy to watch, featuring beautiful shots which encapsulate the beauty behind the soldiers and the horrors of war itself, but its characters and overall plot fail to do the novel and 1930 Best Picture winner justice, resulting in a jumbled mess attempting to do too much despite its lengthy runtime. I would not be surprised if the Academy chose this to win, but there are other nominees which deserve the win much less than this forgettable remake, so it's much of a nothingness in the end.