Oscars Watch 2023: All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet ironically has the best score my ears listened to from all 2022 releases.

Score: 4/5

Netflix is back in awards contention for Best Picture with All Quiet on the Western Front, an adaptation of a powerful novel depicting the horrors of World War I through the perspective of a young German soldier. I remember reading the book in high school, it was a tragic story that grew bleaker as I experienced the transformation of main character Paul (played by Felix Kammerer) from a patriotic youth looking to prove something to a broken man who has no choice but to keep fighting a war he no longer agrees with. It’s a rough read, this film adaptation carries much of that throughout the film, but maybe not as successfully.

In an age where prestige television can rival and even surpass that of a film in terms of production quality some stories make more sense for a two-to-three-hour runtime, some deserve more. This is one of those stories that feels like it needs more time. Director Edward Berger succeeds in showing the senselessness, and the unraveling of Paul as the war continues, yet I felt like even for a movie that is paced on the slower side, I wanted more time to experience the transition of patriotic hopeful to empty disillusioned soldier. The movie pulls away from Paul every so often to give the perspective of two ends of the German leadership, one that wants the war to end and the other that wants to fight to the end. This is necessary yet pulls away from spending more time with Paul and his friends.

Stepping away from that, there were several things that I really liked with this movie. The first being the score by Volker Bertelmann. The theme of this movie stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave. It’s one of those scores that after watching the movie I can listen to and instantly get pulled back into scenes from the movie. I can’t speak enough about it. Pairing with the score, is the beautifully shot cinematography by James Friend. There were numerous moments that I could pause the screen and that would be a perfect poster or painting that captures the movie in all its essence. The last major achievement that wowed me was the makeup. Poor Paul was covered in blood and dirt so often in the movie. That was a monumental task the crew did a really great job. It wouldn’t shock me if this movie won in all these categories because they are that good.

While I feel this could have been an even better mini-series, this movie is still an excellent adaptation that doesn’t shy away from the realities of war. The score, cinematography, and makeup elevate this movie to more than just another war movie in a long line of them. It will be very interesting to see what awards this nominee will pick up on Oscar night.

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