“I Have Seen War, And I Hate War”
With over 11 million deaths, 4 years of trench warfare and countless more casualties, it cannot be stated enough how horrific World War I was. They Shall Not Grow Old is an eye-opening, humbling film, shedding light on the lives of the men who served on the side of the Allied forces from enlistment all the way through the war and beyond. Featuring never-before-seen footage and segments of film painted in colour with enhanced sound, this 90 minute film is the perfect accompaniment for the centennial of The Great War.
The film opens and closes with a letterbox style of filming; black and white archival footage is accompanied by narration from soldiers who were there experiencing it first hand. After about 20 minutes or so, the film opens up and with it, a splash of colour as the front line is brought to life in incredible detail. From here, They Shall Not Grow Old discusses life on the front line, what the Allies thought about trench warfare, No Man’s Land and the Germans themselves. This continues through to the final 15 minutes or so that sheds light on what life was like returning to civilian life after the war.
While the film doesn’t necessarily share anything that hasn’t been retold before in other mediums or documentaries, the technicality and various tricks Peter Jackson has used here to bring the trenches to life is truly incredible. It cannot be stated enough the number of painstaking hours it must have taken for the film to be meticulously coloured, frame by frame, with added sound effects used to enhance the imagery. For this alone the film deserves praise and pays tribute to the men who lost their lives for those horrific 4 years in the best possible way.
They Shall Not Grow Old is a timely reminder of how futile war is and the heavy loss these men experienced during that time. Perhaps more sad than anything else is the general apathy the public showed these men when they returned from France after the war. It’s something that isn’t shown too much but an incredibly important point to note. While the fleeting experience of peace was later shattered by World War II, between 1914 and 1918 World War I was a harrowing experience and one that left these men battered, bruised and changed forever.
Verdict - 9/10