Tuesday, December 15, 2009

51. All Quiet On the Western Front (1930)

Running Time: 133 minutes
Directed By: Lewis Milestone
Written By: Erich Maria Remarque, Maxwell Anderson
Main Cast: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander


This is actually the third time that I've seen this epic World War I film and after going in knowing what to expect, I think I was even more appreciative of this film and what it was trying to get across, much more than I was the previous two times.

"All Quiet On the Western Front" is set in Germany and begins at the dawn of World War I. Our film starts us out inside of a classroom where a schoolmaster gives a rousing and boisterous speech to his innocent young students. As they begin to dream of their lives and what the honor of being a soldier could bring to their lives, they soon rise up in excitement and willingness to go to war and march off to enlist in the Army. We then flash forward a small piece and all of the school chums are again reunited in the military and going through basic training with Sergeant Himmelstoss barking out the orders. Rigorous training and their hatred for Himmelstoss are all these boys know, before they are told they will be "going up front" to fight the good fight.

The young soldiers are then marched into the combat zone and assigned to a unit of older soldiers who quickly inform them that food is scarce. Here we meet a couple of great characters and two of my personal favorites from the film: Tjaden, the usually goofy, but very loveable character and Stanislaus Katczinsky or the Kat for short, a man with a gruff exterior, but with a soft heart and a knack for making the new recruits fit right in and learn their craft.

Soon after the war scenes are in full swing and we're in the trenches with the new recruits and their fellow older soldiers, as guns and explosions can be heard outside, the old pros play cards and fight off rats, while the young guys try their best to keep sane in an insane world. A lot of them lose their cool and the expressions on their faces and the screams that echo from their throats are so realistic that it gives you, the viewer, a real piece of what war life is really like. As the original schoolroom chums are quickly weeded out, the attention of the film quickly goes to Paul, one of the original recruits from the beginning of the film and after death, the mad house and injury take out the rest of the boys, Paul is the only man left for the film to focus in on. Lew Ayres does a terrific job as Paul, and what it's really like to be a new face in a world of explosions, gunfire, trenches and starvation.

Like I said above, I've seen this film three times and I really don't remember enjoying it as much as I did this third time. While I'm not the biggest war film fanatic in the world, this is one of the best war films I've ever seen, as I believe it gives a great account of what life in the war is really like. I myself have never been in a war, or in the military, but after seeing Lewis Milestone's "All Quiet On the Western Front" I feel I can really understand what it is these men go through and what hell it is to be put into the heart of a battle. The men in this film give outstanding depiction, as they scream and wail and cry, just wanting to live long enough to see their homes again. Katczinsky is one of my favorite characters in the film and as he calms the boys down, it's almost as if he's calming you down as well, as the mere presence of his character on the screen and you know the men are in good hands.

RATING: 7.5/10 Which is actually a great rating for me to give to a war film. I had to deduct a few points, as there are a few down times in the picture, but nothing really even worth mentioning. All in all this is a MUST see film.

NEXT UP: A Nous la Liberte...a.k.a. Freedom for Us...It's available for instant viewing on Netflix, so the review shouldn't take too long to get here.

December 15, 2009 12:28am


  1. It's amazing to me how well this movie stands the test of time, especially for an early talkie. The battle sequences were really well done. I thought the acting was a bit weak in some spots, but quite solid in others. Definitely a stand out example of the war film genre.

    1. Agreed! I've seen this movie like three times and am always so surprised at how well done it was, considering it was 1931.


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