All Quiet on the Western Front

War is hell. Nowhere is that notion so vividly illustrated than in Erich Maria Remarque’s 1920 novel All Quiet on the Western Front. While Remarque’s story was brought to life in previous adaptations (1930 followed by 1979), we are reminded yet again of the novel’s significance in Edward Berger’s recent retelling which is now playing on Netflix.

With the current global financial situation, Russia’s war in Ukraine, and fervent nationalism raging around the world, the film’s anti-war message has rarely been as relevant as it is right now. The timing couldn’t be any better and this newest big budget version of a classic war tale is not only a grim reminder of the dirty deeds of man, but also a brilliant piece of filmmaking.

"is not only a grim reminder of the dirty deeds of man, but also a brilliant piece of filmmaking"

Remarque’s basic story remains the same, but those familiar with the earlier film versions will appreciate Berger’s visual update with modern filmmaking techniques. Also, in a break from the earlier versions, he adapts the film in the German author’s native language. The result is an excruciatingly intense look at the horrors of war that leaves us scratching our heads at the audacity of it all.

The film takes place in Spring of 1917 in the Western front of Germany during World War I. We watch in horror as a young soldier named Heinrich Gerber is gunned down in no-man’s land after emptying his gun and marching through mud and barbed wire with only a shovel as a weapon.

We then meet Paul (newcomer Felix Kammerer), a seventeen-year-old high school student desperate to sign up to serve his country where he hopes to beat the French and march to Paris in victory. That’s how he and friends Albert, and Tjaden imagine it, anyway.

The audience views it differently though, as we see Heinrich Gerber’s uniform being sewn and washed – the bullet hole getting a patch – before being reissued to Paul. The gravity of the scene is amplified as we see scores of removed name patches on the floor beneath them.All Quiet on the Western Front

It is the little scenes such as this one that Berger uses to such great effect to create the biggest impact throughout the film. Yes, bullets rip, bombs explode, heads are blown off, and bodies disappear in clouds of blood and viscera. But there’s always those unexpectedly personal moments in the script (Berger co-writes with Lesley Paterson, and Ian Stokell) to remind us of the humanity that is lost to war.

And that’s Remarque’s original intent with his anti-war novel. Kudos to Berger for making it a point to ensure he isn’t telling a heroic story. Unlike most war films, in All Quiet on the Western Front, there is no rooting and cheering at the death of the enemy. Who is the enemy, anyway? A death is just a death, whether it be a comrade, a friend, or a superior. Berger brilliantly ensures the horror of death is interchangeable amongst all parties involved. It is all very dehumanizing. The result is a devastating experience that will undoubtedly leave a mark.

It would be a total surrender to not mention the updated and unconventional score from Volker Bertelsmann which sets an ominous tone throughout. Coupled with James Fields’ stunning cinematography, and the technical accuracy Berger and company deploy to get all the little details just right, All Quiet on the Western Front joins 1917, Joyeux Noel, and Gallipoli in the curiously short list of great WWI films.

5/5 stars

Film Details

All Quiet on the Western Front

MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody war violence and grisly images.
94 mins
: Edward Berger
Edward Berger; Lesley Paterson; Ian Stokell.
Felix Kammerer; Albrecht Schuch; Aaron Hilmer
: War | Drama
A Netflix Film.
Memorable Movie Quote:
Official Site:
Release Date:
October 28, 2022
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:

Synopsis: A young German soldier's terrifying experiences and distress on the western front during World War I.


All Quiet on the Western Front