They Shall Not Grow Old ★★★★½


"You don't look. You see. You don't hear, you listen. You taste the top of your mouth. Your nose is filled with fumes and death. But the near of civilization has dropped away."

Phenomenal. Famed director Peter Jackson brings us a vivid collection of memories of the past set during World War I, but this time he essentially touches most of the footage up with color, sound, even dialogue. Jackson's intent here is to directly humanize the people in the conflict, on both sides.

It's as obvious as the title suggests, where they shall not grow old. Old implies that such time is nearing its end. However, the moment we forget about WWI is the moment we may take several steps backwards. Jackson attempts to present most of the film in color, with vivid sound effects that really bring you closer than ever to observing the soldiers at WWI. Though, I'd argue that it is truly the dialogue that brings this whole vision together. Certainly, Jackson attempts to stitch the dialogue with what's shown onscreen, yet they're likely disconnected. It's as if you inserted an another movie's dialogue into a completely different movie and have it play over that. However, it works here. It really does. Jackson is able to take the surface level yet exhilarating images of war, then plunges for it with the dialogue that really makes you think.

Yet Jackson's intent to humanize the people on both sides doesn't mean he necessarily ignores the politics of the war. If anything, he completely upends it, and turns it on its head. Jackson shows moments where we see that the two opposing forces are not so different from one another, and it simply furthers the case for the futility of war. He wanted to tell stories that definitely are surface level, but he's able to master all aspects of this film that it does come together for the most part. The sound, the visuals, and the lines are all nicely lined up, and you have yourself possibly one of the most important documentaries this century.

If anything, this is also another case of film preservation. It's not just film, but actual history. We lose that, we lose history forever. To lose history means to repeat it. War is certainly something we've repeated as long as mankind has existed on this earth, but it's always nice to have someone who knows his craft to give us something why we should hold it off. For now at the very least, unless we somehow make an extraordinary leap where we're above conflicts. Someday. Anyhow, Peter Jackson did a hell of a job here. This will be in classrooms soon enough, if it's not already. Essential in every sense of the word.

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