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  • Writer's pictureGuy Jeffries

They Shall Not Grow Old

Director: Peter Jackson.

I sadly missed the actually live Q&A screening of Peter Jackson’s incredible WWI documentary, but I was lucky enough to catch it yesterday ahead of this year’s Remembrance Sunday, which in turn is obviously a big deal this year, commemorating 100 years since the amnesty of the First World War. And I was so glad I did. For Jackson and crew, it was something that started off as a 30 minute feature, but knowing what Jackson is like with runtimes, the film quickly tripled in length, especially with the massive amounts of footage used.

It’s not really a World War documentary, as it focuses solely on the soldier’s stories, the very survivors of the Western Front, one of the key theatres during The Great War and The Battle of the Somme. Their stories, read from real accounts are stringed together that collectively tell an honest, and most authentic story starting from their enlistment, to them getting to the trenches, the training and of course the bloody war and it’s aftermath. This, astonishingly retold alongside actually never-before-seen footage captured during the war creates a vivid reimagining of one of history bloodiest wars.

We have to remind ourselves that not only is this story now more than 100 years old, but video photography was still very much in it’s infancy, with this being the first war ever to be filmed; but thanks to today’s technological advances and the team behind this picture, the footage we see is nothing short of astounding and both touching and horrifying at the same time. Seeing the black and white footage come to life in restored colour brings a whole new perspective, making it so much more real than ever before.

Jackson doesn’t tell the a story about the war, the reasons or it’s politics; he doesn’t venture off to the sea or sky and other battles fought, nor does he talk of the families, the parents and wives waiting at home, but he stays firmly with the soldiers who festered on the frontline and tells an incredibly truthful and personal story of young men sent to fight a gruesome, unprecedented war. And what Jackson achieves with all this amazing footage and stories, is the humanity, the humility and the mutual sympathies both sides of the war seemed to understand, casting out hatred and gives a prime example of why there is no such thing as a good war and why war should be avoided at all costs. Some of the stories we see, again, I remind you, it’s actual footage; is emotive and even amidst the great bloody tragedy, there’s great compassion that could quite possible change people’s perspective of the enemies of the time.

Whether you support the Poppy appeal, The British Legion or not, this film is more than that, it’s more than educational. It truly displays the greatness of humanity during one of, if not the worse war in human history; though it doesn’t glorify war, no, not at all; and it tells the story of men sent into an unfortunate, yet a necessary, dire war to prevent greater and further atrocities. It is for those people who sacrificed their freedoms so that we could have ours today.

Jackson and team create an outstanding tribute to those people who gave their lives and to those that lived to tell this tale. The technical brilliance of both visuals and sound, the prefect melding of these men’s accounts and the restored footage all bring a totally new or re-envisioned story of the men on the Western Front.

Running Time: 9

The Cast: 10

Performance: 10

Direction: 10

Story: 10

Script: 10

Creativity: 10

Soundtrack: 8

Job Description: 10

The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for it's technical brilliance and telling the stories so incredibly well.

97% 10/10

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