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User Reviews for: They Shall Not Grow Old

6/10  4 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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