Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

They Shall Not Grow Old

Cinema Monolith: 8/10 I saw this movie at the Harkins Arrowhead Fountains 18 in Peoria, AZ - 2/13/19
IMDb: 8.5/10
Arizona Daily Sun: A-

Released in the UK on November 9, 2018 and in the US on December 17, 2018
Rated R
99 minutes

Directed by Peter Jackson

Produced by Peter Jackson and Clare Olssen

Featuring: research of 600 hours of interviews and 100 hours of original film footage, archival audio from 120 servicemen who fought during the war, and sound effects taken from actual equipment and artillery used during WWI.

It was only recently that I’d first heard about the film They Shall Not Grow Old, and all I knew was that it was a documentary about World War II, spotlighting England’s involvement in the war by using old film footage that had been cleaned up and colorized, and that it was made by Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson. From a historical standpoint I was intrigued, and decided it might be fun to see it on the big screen, especially since I had a free pass at my disposal.

Well, I saw it last night, and with what seems to be happening more often than I’d like to admit, I goofed up a few of the film’s details. As I discovered a few minutes in, the documentary was not about the second world war, but the first, and the footage was not colorized, nor had it been cleaned up or restored. Well, I botched those last two points as well, because shortly into the movie, after watching a build-up to England’s involvement with scenes of recruitment and training, the filmmakers abruptly shifted the film quality from aged to restored, and from black-and-white to color.

The sudden switch was a shocker, to say the least. It was amazing what Jackson and his team had done, taking grainy, damaged footage shot over one hundred years ago, in less-than-stellar conditions with simple hand-wound cameras, and turning it into something new and vibrant, as if photographed just recently. The film centered on one aspect of the war, the British and the Germans fighting along the Western Front in Belgium and France, and all of the film’s action took place on the ground—on the battlefields and in the trenches—with nary a battleship or airplane in sight.

Jackson chose to spend a good portion of the documentary concentrating more on the soldiers’ stories than the battles, and he used interviews with actual servicemen of the war (recorded by the BBC decades ago) to detail and enhance the images and activities taking place on-screen. From what Jackson stated at the beginning of the film, it took four years to complete this documentary, and I can see why; the care and research involved was exceptional. Jackson even used WWI uniforms and equipment from his private collection to ensure that colors and incidental sounds were authentic.

For someone who knows very little about World War I, this was not only a visual experience for me but an educational one as well. At my screening, the film was followed by a restoration documentary hosted by Jackson; after seeing the black-and-white footage post-restoration, and before it was clipped for widescreen presentation, a part of me wished that it had stayed that way; I think it looked better, and sharper, and more real than in color. But that’s just me: this was still a fantastic and mesmerizing cinematic achievement, and is definitely worth checking out.  (8/10)

 

11 comments on “They Shall Not Grow Old

  1. Honestly I can’t wait to see this. Everything I’ve read on it sounds like it’s a rare movie going experience.

    • Todd B
      2/15/19

      It’s a very well-done film, Mike, and you’ll have to let me know what you thought. Realizing that what you’re seeing is over a hundred years old is really mind-boggling. If your screening has the documentary that follows the film, I recommend hanging out for the extra half-hour and checking it out.

  2. Great choice – good review as always. Nice of you to find these GEMS for us!

    • Todd B
      2/15/19

      Hey, no problem…just another part of my high-quality, award-winning service! Thanks, Julie!

  3. Sorry for the late reply been a way for a few days! I really want to see this and stupidly missed it when it was shown on telly in November over here. Though I did record it and had a little flick through. I fell onto the soldiers on their horses!!. Riding through the field with an almighty explosion. The hairs on the back of the neck were up and you could feel the colour go my face. My daughter watched that sequence too and we both could feel it’s horror. As she’s been studying WW1 for A-levels we will both be watching it soon, just gotta find the time in-between her studies. So hopefully soon. It does look incredible and it really brings it home and makes it all look so unbelievably recent. What with November last year being the hundred anniversary it was a somber month. Such a mind boggling pointless war!! Blackadder Goes Forth finale still hits the heartstrings.

    • Todd B
      2/20/19

      You had a chance to see it for FREE? I had to pay nearly…well, I used a free pass, but still! Yeah, that horse moment was something else…I feared what I’d see when the smoke cleared. And yes, that cleanup and colorization job really make it all look a LOT less than 100 years old…like someone filmed a WWI movie in the 1950s.

      And I checked out that Blackadder link, which really confused me at first, because all I knew was his ‘medieval times’ series…I had to go check online and discover there were FOUR series set over different periods in time. I now see the impact…a WWI comedy series that ended on such a somber note.

      And you’re ‘sorry for the late reply’? Pal, I just got caught up with your posts a few weeks ago after being behind for TWO MONTHS! So no problem, it’s cool!

      • Yeah it was shown on the BBC on 11th of November. Actually it’s still available on demand for another week. Must of been great seeing it on the big screen and getting that introduction from Peter Jackson too making it very special.

        Yeah the First Blackadder was set in medieval times and was the weaker of the four series. The second one was centered around Queen Elizabeth I and is the best. The third series is set in the regency era. With the forth set in WW1. That series finale is and should be up there with the most rememberable ends to a series ever. It went straight from laughs to death in No Man’s Land.

        If you did ever watch it, very recommended I must say, you can skip the first series completely. Blackadder character isn’t the snidey bastard we came to love on the classic rest of the series. 🙂

      • Todd B
        2/21/19

        It was cool seeing the Peter Jackson intro, but even better seeing the documentary afterwards…a rare treat at a theatrical screening. If you ever get a chance to see it (after you’ve seen the movie, of course), I’d say give it a look.

        Thanks for the info on the four series. And it’s funny…years ago I tried watching the first Blackadder series, and didn’t like it, so I never went back…and never knew there were more series to choose from. So I appreciate the warning about that first series, about a quarter century too late! 😉

      • LOL yeah it put a lot of people off. His character was just so stupid and they had his sidekick, Baldrick, the “sensible” one. Lucky they saw the error of their ways and swapped the characters around. The rest they say is….. history. If the second series is ever repeated over your way, it’s very much worth having a watch. ….. Gonna try and watch the doc this week and will see if I can get to see the PJ intro. Thanks Todd

      • Todd B
        2/25/19

        Hey Mikey, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for that second Blackadder series…and if you don’t do a review of this documentary, let me know what you thought when you can!

      • Certainly will brother Todd 🙂

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