Documentary

Review: They Shall Not Grow Old

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The best part of They Shall Not Grow Old is a postscript: Following the credits, director Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) appears on screen to discuss the making of his remarkable World War I film.

The documentary immerses viewers in the daily experience of British soldiers, from the rush to volunteer through boot camp and on to the Western front. Post hoc interviews with survivors are layered atop restored video footage from the war. And oh, how well-restored it is!

The idea, Jackson explains, was to turn 100-year-old film into something that might have been shot today. By retiming it to the modern standard of 24 frames per second, through painstaking colorization, and with the addition of voice acting and sound effects, he very nearly succeeds. Jumpy, scratchy, black-and-white images come into focus, and blurry, faceless figures come to life. All that realism and immediacy add up to a reminder that wars are fought not by countries or even armies but by men.

NEXT: Movie Review: All Is True

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  1. I seem to remember having trouble conceptualizing the distance in past in color when I was a child. Even my dreams of the past where in black and white. It’s amazing how the brain works. How ideas are formed and shaped.

    1. I was 30 when I first found out that some people could dream in black and white, and it blew me away.
      I never imagined someone wouldn’t dream the same way that they saw.

  2. “Were” not “where” and take out the “it” preceding “past” and I go away now in shame.

    1. I heard a rumor that there would be an “edit button” and other “enhancements” after the latest successful fund-scrounger.

  3. The really interesting part for me was how Jackson transitioned in and out of combat, like that was the only part that was “real”. Maybe for the Tommies that would have been the way they remembered it all, with their time in the trenches and near the front vivid and everything else smaller and darker. Most of the quotes they used were generic enough to apply to British experiences anywhere on the Western front, but I would like to see something focused particularly on the Somme (or Verdun for the French).

  4. Wow…three grammatically challenged paragraphs. That’s quite the review.

    1. I don’t think the paragraphs are that bad. How this constitutes a “review” is a good question, however. Moreover, why is this review coming out a full five months after the movie’s release and disapearance from the theaters?

      I guess reason was too busy concentraiting on the important works of art like super hero movies.

      1. Superhero movies are the myths of gods and monsters of today.

  5. How could anyone write a review of this movie without mentioning Madomoiselle FromArmentières?

    Never let a girl review a war movie. They just never get them.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9mCN9eeYXM

    1. Come on John, go easy. Stephanie had the balls to slap this incredibly problematic statement as her punctuation mark:

      All that realism and immediacy add up to a reminder that wars are fought not by countries or even armies but by men.

      That makes me want to take her out to dinner.

      1. Fair point.

  6. Did he get any video of the battle Wonder Woman was in?

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