Movie Review: They Shall Not Grow Old

To take the horrors of Word War I from film that is over 100 years old and then fix the wear and tear, age, speed and color – and then make a 2 hour documentary called “They Shall Not Grow Old” is an incredible scientific and movie making achievement. Most people would probably think that film this old, regardless of how many times it has been copied would not even exist, much less to be able to correct the many problems to make a new documentary about World War I.

There are many circumstances out of our control in life that can make you a successful human being and just as many that can make you a failure or a young person who horribly dies in war. Being a young man born in the early 1890’s or the early 1920’s virtually guaranteed that your life would probably include being drafted into 2 of the most horrible wars in human history and not only dying young, but horribly. Even if you survived, the odds were even higher that you would be badly wounded or have psychological scars that will never heal for the rest of your life.

Director Peter Jackson spent years creating a 2 hour documentary and story about the horrendous hardship’s of World War I that was fought during 1914-1918. The restored film footage covered the constant shelling from both the British and the Germans, the commonplace reality of death and dismemberment, the days and weeks of sitting around waiting for another battle to start, lack of food and suffering, the use of chemical weapons, the disgusting bathroom realities and even some pictures of trench foot, where the only solution was amputation. There is no way any human being can tell someone outside of a war like this what it was like, even with a high quality produced documentary like this one. Surprisingly, after the war the returning veterans were not treated well, and most could not find any work, even encountering indifference to what they have been through. This documentary also has narration throughout from many of the soldiers who lived through this horrible war, and if there is one flaw in this movie it is that many of the accents are so thick that very often you cannot understand what they are saying.

At the beginning of this documentary, Peter Jackson tells the audience that at the end of the credits he will address the audience after the closing credits to summarize much of the film restoration science was accomplished. Unfortunately the ending credits were way too long and annoying to sit through to wait for Peter Jackson. A better idea would have been to show Peter Jackson’s technical explanation right after the movie and then end the movie with the credits.

For anyone interested in world history and the history of World War I, this is a must see documentary, but prepare yourself for some very disturbing pictures and video. All wars are horrendous and should never exist in life but they will probably always exist. Humanity, even 100 years ago, is extremely accomplished at the cruel art of killing people.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for They Shall Not Grow Old are 99% and I agree with this rating and highly recommend this very impressive documentary.

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