All Quiet On The Western Front: When I was reviewing my various reviews of the Best Picture nominees for 2023, I realized that although I had watched this movie on Netflix, for whatever reason I had failed to review it here. So that needed to be remedied for the Best International film Oscar winner. It also won three other Oscars, for cinematography, musical score and production design. If you happen to watch the Making Of All Quiet feature on Netflix, I think you will appreciate even more what they have done with this film.
I think that the star of the film, the young man Edward Berger is simple excellent in being the audience’s experience of the First World War from a German perspective. As a North American we are shown early century war movies (First World War and WWII) always with the Germans as the villians. They are the faceless enemy shooting down the Allied heroes mercilessly, efficiently but always with a view to being the true enemy. This movie turns that experience on its head, with the German perspective on this war.
From the early days of being a new recruit with young enthusiasm with his friends at joining in the grand fight for the Fatherland, and early training will marches filled with song. The effective war machine sidenote with the lifecycle of a soldier’s uniform shown is dramatic in pointing out that our young man and his friends are pawns on a chess board. Dots on a map ina trench. The sets are incredible, with the trenches, the battles, the blood and the damp. Thank goodness that there isn’t smell-o-vision!!
As the war moves on, friendships are made, new characters are introduced with the German envoy looking to have peace negotiations with the French. The Germans are realizing with the new American soldiers re-enforcing Allied positions that it is just a matter of time. Our young soldiers are once again shown to have their lives subject to fate (bullets, bombs and illness hitting or missing them randomly) but also the pride of their leaders and those of their enemy. The French leaders are shown to be defiant at any suggestion of compromise, with a list of demands for any armistice which would be complete capitulation from the Germans to these arrogant French leaders. Of course leaders on both sides are human, and pride effects them too, as the weary soldiers again are put into action. They also live in luxurious rooms with fine dining and all the comforts of home as opposed to their men on the battlefields.
There are some memorable scenes in this, including one very similar to the one on one knife battle in the town in Saving Private Ryan. Killing someone with a knife is very personal. It’s not shooting from afar, but up close as you see the reaction of your enemy as the knife enters their body and takes their life in front of you. War is senseless. It is a colossal waste of men and resources from both sides. As we all know, the stage was set for WWII with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles by the Germans back in 1918. Shaming and belittling your enemy with economically catastrophic impositions against them sow the seeds of discontent. Those with nothing, have nothing to lose. I remember too that these young men were just boys, in their middle to late teens or early twenties. As a father with sons of my own, I cringe to think about them being put in harm’s way for the sake of the pride of a military focused leader. I have little doubt that Russian parents feel the same with their sons in Ukraine, no matter what their media tells them. I do think that this is an excellent film. It can be very tough to watch. War is hell. This shows this very well. No one is shown to be a hero, however heroic that their actions can be. In the end, they are struggling to survive in conditions are are just inhuman. People treat each other so badly, and we can do so much more together.
The Night Agent: This new Netflix series is very popular at the moment. The star is a young agent of the FBI, played by Gabriel Basso. I don’t think that they could have found another actor who looks more like Game of Thrones Robb Stark, and star of the similar UK’s The Bodyguard Richard Madden than him. See foe yourself:
The stories are in the early two episodes that I have seen quite similar. There is intrigue at the upper levels of the government. In The Night Agent, it is the White House, where there is apparently a mole within the Office of the President, where the young agent has been seconded from the FBI. A young women, has her family members killed dramatically and she comes to realize that they were not anywhere like she thought that they were. People have lots of secrets, and those in this plot are no different. The game of cat and mouse begins, with the woman who was in the cyber-security business, played by Luciane Buchanan, revealing more and more to the young agent who is supposed to be off this detail but manages (quite remarkably and with impeccable timing) to stay engaged. I won’t delve any further into the plot lines early on. Of course there are far-fetched stunts, and bad people who although they are paid assassins presumbly are quite horrible shots when it comes to taking out the woman and the young agent. Imagine that! Add high speed chases, plenty of shooting and polticial intrigue and you have a series to explore. I am not sure yet whether I am sold on this. I will watch a couple more episodes and see what develops. So stay tuned, and feel free to make up your own mind and comment if you like.