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An impressive technical achievement with a walloping emotional impact, They Shall Not Grow Old pays brilliant cinematic tribute to the sacrifice of a generation.
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All Critics (124)
| Top Critics (21)
| Fresh (123)
| Rotten (1)
There's a lot to debate here, and a lot to admire.
"They Shall Not Grow Old" is a nearly great talking-head documentary in which the talking heads are never seen, only heard.
It's a true act of revival.
For the first time, those jittery, frenetic figures in ancient newsreels look and move like people you know.
"They Shall Not Grow Old" shows that actually seeing something is different from knowing it intellectually, or even from imagining it. The effect of this is moving and profound.
Peter Jackson has taken a mass of World War I archival clips from Britain's Imperial War Museum and fashioned it into a brisk, absorbing and moving experience.
Even without the 3D format, it really seems to bring those soldiers and the war alive and into the theater.
If you just want to see the result of groundbreaking computer restoration of hours and hours of black and white WWI footage that honors the centennial of the "war that was to end all wars," do see They Shall Not Grow Old.
The result is nothing short of a landmark cinematic event.
A tremendous and sobering work. It honors those who gave up their own free lives that many more might be born into their own.
Collapses the gulf between past and present, bringing history to life in one of the most visceral experiences I've ever had in a movie theater. It's extraordinary.
It restores images we never imagined could look so alive, but it is also an intense tribute to those who lost their lives during such a bloody war. [Full review in Spanish]
I was actually a bit disappointed by this. The beginning is rather clunky, showing moving pictures as you know them from the early stages of film -making and a lot of commentary provided by survivors of WW1 back to back without pause. The moment the image suddenly gets wide and colored is fantastic and the technical feat of transferring all the material to modern viewing standards praise-worthy. Unfortunately the witnesses' commentary offering intrinsic details of every day life on the front can get tiring and hard to understand at times. There are too many voices, in too short an order and soon the images of the dead start to appear. You witness the horrors but you just don't feel it.
Does this belong in history class as a deterrence against war? Absolutely. Does it offer anything new beyond the technical side? Not really.
Filmmaker Peter Jackson has performed a miracle and given voice and life back to the dead. His special effects technicians have taken World War One footage and cleaned it up, slowed the frame rate down, and made it a truly immersive experience that brings out the humanity of those who fought and fell. You see their faces, their movements, and their existence in a way like never before. It's remarkable to watch the difference in the century-old footage, allowing history to come alive. Jackson also has a running soundtrack of BBC interviews from the 1960s and 70s, where a collage of veterans recounts their experiences from many aspects of the war. It's wonderful to listen to their personal stories and insights from the men themselves rather than through some recreation or actor's reading. I could have listened to much more anecdotes from the men who lived them (the last WWI vet died only a few years ago; they're all wiped away now). There is nothing else to this 99-minute documentary other than the archival footage spiffed up and the synched interviews. Jackson')s documentary focuses on the British experience from jubilant, nationalistic start to weary, haunted conclusion. There is scant new insight into the Great War that a thousand other television specials and documentaries haven't covered, but it's the immediacy of the sights and sounds that makes They Shall Not Grow Old compelling. My screening was in 3D and I can't quite say it was worth it (the projector may have been improperly attuned, or it could just be the limitations of 100-year-old footage). Anyway, this is a must-watch for history buffs but there might not be much for your casual viewer to chew over.
Nate's Grade: B
Restored WW1 footage focuses on the British common soldiers' experience and brings dramatically alive a part of history nearly lost to the dustbins. What's seen is unforgettable and destined to be part of the required curriculum, a sober testament against how casually the expression "the horrors of war" is absorbed anymore. Peter Jackson takes care to linger on the faces of the youth given over to battle death, while the voices of survivors, those who were there, vocalize and remember what that horror was actually like. Necessary viewing.
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