I love these kinds of movies in that they generate intense interest among the older generation. Which means my parents want to see it and then they pay for my ticket for a movie I wanted to see anyways.
They Shall Not Grow Old is about WW1. Specifically, it’s about the average British soldiers’ experience during The Great War. Original wartime footage plays while hundreds of audio clips from real WW1 veterans provide context for the images. The draw of the film is that the legendary Peter Jackson and his crew took this old footage, and gave it color. This horrible, wonky black and white footage gets new life with very accurate color correction.
Let me tell you, the effect is incredible. The film starts in black and white on the homefront. The boys are signing on to the war and the images only take up a small portion of the screen like an old timey reel. Then they arrive at the front. The color takes effect, the audio is infused with the sounds of gunshots and artillery shells. The screen zooms in to the widescreen we currently enjoy. I’m getting chills thinking about it. One of the best movie going experiences I’ve had in a while.
What this movie does for me, besides convince me the same thing needs to be done for WW2, is that it reiterates that war is awful. The worst possible thing to ever happen. These boys, who we can now really associate with, living breathing, happy young men. Dying by the millions. It’s heartbreaking. Especially in a war whose justification was nothing more than rampant imperialism.
One of the great delights of the film is the mini doc at the end. About a half hour of Peter Jackson explaining what they did and why they did it. It’s about as good as the movie itself. Painstaking is the word that comes to mind to describe the effort they put in. This is a labor of love and respect. I wish there was a version for every country to enjoy. I expect it will be playing in museums for the next two hundred years.
4 out of 4 stars.