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User Reviews for: They Shall Not Grow Old

9/10  3 years ago
I went into this mostly to see what results had Peter Jackson and his team achieved in restoring old footage. The visual aspect was what I was interested in, as I am not one for documentaries otherwise; but "They Shall Not Grow Old" is really something else.

The movie avoids to identify the soldiers that speak and narrate throughout the movie. It also makes no mention of specific dates nor places. It's a great idea, as it makes the whole story not about an individual or a certain battle but rather about what it was like being an infantryman in the British army on the western front; and it managed to convey that message brilliantly. From the exuberance of the young british eager to enlist when the war started to their first doubts after a few weeks of training; from the camaraderie and bonding that happened in the trenches to the horror of the charges against the machine guns.

The visuals really helped bring the whole experience into the 21st century. Sometimes watching old footage you feel disconnected, detached. It's in black and white, it's at a weird speed, it looks almost parodistic. Here instead, a lot of footage has been colorized and its speed adjusted. Sure it doesn't look perfect, you can see some interpolation and visual glitches, but this is not some big production in Hollywood. These were real men, firing real guns and losing their real lives.

The audio was also great. The way they managed to edit the various interviews of the soldiers was incredible; if you didn't know that they used 600 hours of dialogue, you'd think that a platoon of soldiers was sitting in a pub, telling each other stories from the war. Plus the work they've done to add audio to the footage was very well done, with believable sound effects.

In the end, I was very surprised by this movie. The 100 minutes of runtime flies by. Watch it.

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7/10  4 years ago
For the most part this is pretty standard History Channel, WWI, we band of brothers went off to battle type stuff. At least it definitely starts that way, the movie is old footage of young boys hustling off to war, footage of boot camp, soldier life, trench life and of course the hells of war, all shown with narration from actual soldiers who lived this life. As to be expected the narration starts off good natured with tales of British patriotism and young boys lying about their age to rush off to die. It's hard to imagine a time where pride swelled this much, but it's easy to see why it isn't in such abundance these days, as you see how the harsh reality of soldier life and war hit these young pack of lads. The real impressive part is when the old black and white war footage becomes full screen and in color. Everything becomes more real and feels more recent. And the reality becomes more harsh. Dealing with gun fire and bombs isn't enough as your country doesn't even bother to get you boots that fit or more than one uniform, you're fed bread and butter and you fight off rats and lice all for God and country. You end up fighting some other kid in a different color uniform and you watch your friends brains get blown out of the back of their heads. Yes, war is hell, many a video game have shown us this over and over. I mean no disrespect for these young men that put their lives on the line and came back and got basically shit on, they deserve all the praise and respect in the world. It's the people that force these decisions in the first place that I blame. I don't mean to sound so edgy and cynical, but I can't help it, I just watched depressing war stories for the past 90 minutes.
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6/10  3 years ago
A Peter Jackson-helmed documentary about the British troops of WWI. Given unlimited access to the Imperial War Museum's film archives and the BBC's catalog of old audio interviews with veterans, Jackson has pieced together a rather thorough inside look at the entire experience. From the enthusiasm of doing one's service for the country (a lure which drew mere children, some as young as fifteen, to lie about their age in search of a glorious adventure) to the grim, futile reality of a charge across no man's land, it pulls no punches and shows us the bare reality of that first great war.

The footage itself, largely unseen and almost unanimously up-close and personal with the troops, has been steadied, adjusted to play at a consistent speed and carefully colorized, resulting in picture quality that's unusually vivid and accessible. It's easy to lose touch with something that's juddering and grainy, cast in a permanent sepia tone, but in living color these kids might as well be our neighbors. Some scenes translate better than others, but at worst it merely looks like a heavy-handed technicolor job. The standout moments for me came from our private view of the artillery cannons, so intense and powerful that they nearly shake the television itself.

The ground-focused narrative limits our perspective, though, with scarce mention of where we are or what we're trying to accomplish. That's probably a good example of how the troops themselves felt, but it betrays the sheer magnitude of the war effort and leads to a few vacant lulls in the narrative. Still, a laudable technical accomplishment and an impressive archive of a generation that's no longer with us.
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