I’m sure many of you reading this review have seen documentaries about war that have run on cable TV. The most prevalent is World at War that covers World War II and other American conflicts. Digging through archives of war museums could be a very difficult task and one that would have to be approved by the powers that be. Most of you also know Peter Jackson for his films, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy. He also released the recent Mortal Engines that is currently in theaters. Well, put him in a room filled with British war movie film taken during World War I and he’ll come up with They Shall Not Grow Old, a documentary that shows the gritty battles of the Great War and the men who fought it. And It’s Utterly Amazing!
The film opens in theaters on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. It’s a fitting tribute and reminder of the men who fought hard to end tyranny during that time of history. But more importantly it shows the trauma, squalor, and pressure the ill-equipped British Army was under and the awful foe they had to face.
I do like the way the film is presented with Jackson showing the recruitment of the men and making it really personal. He then takes you to the battlefield where you can almost taste the gunpowder, smell the appalling filth, trudge through the muddy trenches, and go elbow to elbow with the massive number of men crowded in pits embodied with the stench of human waste. Yet it shows the determination of the men who fought for their country without question or consideration for their own lives. It’s heroism at its most generous to give one’s life so others may live. It was an honor to see this film and think about our American soldiers who faced similar fates and still do.
The movie was made on 35mm film, a rarity in a time of digital presentations. According to the filmmakers, they went through hundreds of hours of century-old original footage from the archives of the Imperial War Museum in London. From their findings they transferred it to film applying state-of-the-art restoration, colorization, and 3D technologies to give up-close and clear views of even the most decaying shots from the massive collection. Using commentary, actual sound bites, and other means, they brought sound and eye-popping visuals of the men who volunteered, their training, and fight on the battlefield for all to see.
In my estimation, Peter Jackson, his crew and those helpful in allowing the team to bring the museum’s treasured records of the British participation in WWI to the screen are to be commended for a job well done. The film has been rated R by the MPAA for disturbing war images, and there are many. The men who died on the field of honor are shown providing a stark realization that war is hell. If you are open to watching this captivating and compelling documentary, the squeamish may have to turn away from the screen at times.
A gripping documentary on heroism at its most honorable. Be cautious when deciding to allow immature children see the film, as it does have some scenes that are inappropriate for youngsters.