‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ Is the Movie of the Year

I haven’t yet seen this film but want to — here is Rich Lowry about “The Shall Not Grow Old”:

The filmmaker Peter Jackson deserves more than an Oscar; he deserves a medal.

What the director of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies has done with his World War I documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old, is more than restore archival film; he has restored the humanity of men caught up in one of history’s great cataclysms. This is an aesthetic achievement of the highest order, and a great service to history. 

World War I has always had more than its share of historiography, novels, poems and feature films. Until now what it lacked was video (at least watchable video), the single most powerful medium of the modern era.

It took Jackson and his team five years to make They Shall Not Grow Old. They had to painstakingly remove scratches and other damage from old film belonging to the Imperial War Museum, and slow down the primitive footage. Then it was colorized, with loving accuracy. Forensic lip readers recovered what soldiers were saying on the film, and actors provided the voices. Finally, it was made 3D.

The effect is to transform the men originally caught on choppy black-and-white film to relatable, individual human beings, just like anyone else we watch on a screen today. 

World War I was such an industrial-scale event that it tends to become impersonal, the men who fought it reduced in our minds to cannon fodder.

Jackson’s artistic choices open up a new vista. He focuses only on British soldiers on the Western Front and doesn’t retell the events of the war. There is no narrator and no historians. Instead, the voices of vets interviewed by the BBC in the 1960s and ’70s constitute the narration. They tell the story of their personal experiences from enlistment to the end of the war.

Read more: National Review