All Quiet on the Western Front (2022) | Review
By Lucile Grégoire
In October 2022, Netflix released All Quiet on the Western Front, based on the 1928 novel by Erich Maria Remarque. We follow young Paul Baumer as he enrols in the army during World War I. I will not be able to tell you whether this is a good adaptation as I have not read the book—for the first time in my life—but that does not stop me from having an opinion on the movie in itself.
This film has the merit of showing us another side of the war. Unlike most World War I movies, not only do we see the German side of the story, but we are not stuck in the first trenches with our protagonist the whole time. More realistically, we witness life in the reserve trenches. Don’t get me wrong, as you can expect, you will be shown the stereotypical mud and blood, all of it portrayed through beautiful photography, but it is not all the movie’s about. Besides the violence, we see how the war breaks Paul and his friends, the trauma it causes, and the questioning it leads to. How could they go back to a normal life after what they lived? For two and a half hours, an underlying sadness seeps through the screen and into the viewer, the few moments of light cut short, accentuating the hopelessness of it all. The score discreetly accompanies our emotional journey and makes itself more present in moments of imminent danger and fear with a surprising leitmotif that is so far from what I expected from this soundtrack. The structure of the story allows for great recalls, scenes mirroring each other that had me on the edge of my seat, anxious to see how the scene would unfold.
Most of the criticism I saw online regarding this film related to how different the plot was from the original material. If you loved the novel, that is something you should be aware of. Primarily, I had two issues with this version of All Quiet on the Western Front. Firstly, two and a half hours felt like an eternity. The camera spent so much time panning over landscapes of destruction, and the fighting scenes were so long I could not help but think that the time could have been used more efficiently. This leads to my second issue and the main reason for my disappointment. I wish we had spent more time getting to know Paul and his comrades. Seeing them in battle would have packed so much more of an emotional punch if I cared more about them! I wanted this movie to break me but while it made me feel depressed, not a single tear rolled down my cheeks.
Most of my thoughts on this film are positive, and I do recommend it—although be aware that it is not for the faint of heart, as some images are truly gruesome. However, I cannot help but feel like it hasn’t reached its potential, which leaves me a bit disappointed.