Nearly 100 years after the first cinematic adaptation of the popular German novel, All Quiet On The Western Front, Netflix announced its own version, released on October 7th, promising a much more visceral and brutal take on the story.
And apparently, they weren’t kidding. The film gave a lot to talk about after a few festival premieres, with critics calling it one of the darkest depictions of war in a long time. Following a group of young men who voluntarily enlist themselves in the German army, they bear witness to the unimaginable horrors of the war.
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When Sam Mendes came up with 1917, he clearly had one thing in mind: he wanted to make viewers feel what it was like to fight in the war, delivering a brutal and almost sensorial movie. For this reason, the film was shot in such a way that it feels like one continuous take, from beginning to end.
1917 captures moments of peace and contemplation with the same intensity as its action sequences, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats at the imminent danger that lingers throughout the film’s entire running time. In the movie, two young soldiers are assigned to cross enemy territory in order to deliver a message that could save the lives of hundreds of soldiers.
Different from his other action-filled movies, Christopher Nolan crafts a war movie made predominantly of suggestions: the enemies are never really seen, and the combat is simply a threat most of the time. However, consequences are left out in the open from the get-go, and that’s the main element that makes Dunkirk so scary yet so realistic.
The film dramatizes a miraculous evacuation of Allied soldiers as the Germans overwhelm them by all sides. Giving time to develop each character’s arc amid the imminent battle, Dunkirk is a war tale about hope even when there’s no sign of redemption ahead.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
With The Thin Red Line, Terrence Malick manages to capture beauty among the bloodshed, peace in burning landscapes, and redemption when life loses all meaning. The movie’s greatest feat is exploring all that without romanticizing the atrocities of war.
Adapting James Jones’ autobiographical novel, the film focuses on an overlooked World War II conflict at Guadalcanal, where a group of soldiers engages on a journey of self-discovery that encapsulates not only their fear of death and destruction, but also their faith in a better future and the delicate touch of nature around them. With great attention to detail and excellent cinematography, The Thin Red Line remains one of Terrence Malick’s best movies.
More than simply a movie about the Vietnam War, Platoon is predominantly a movie about humanity and how exactly cruelty and the horrors of war corrupted the soul of the men who fought it.
Gathering a stellar cast made by names such as Willem Dafoe, Charlie Sheen, and Johnny Depp in one of their best early roles, Platoon offers a realistic depiction of the moral dilemmas the war forces soldiers to confront, gradually changing the soul of each character as the movie goes by, and their companionship begins to splinter.
Army Of Shadows (1969)
Army Of Shadows isn’t a typical war movie with shootouts, explosions, and soldiers advancing in enemy territory, but it isn’t any less brutal than those that depict raw combat. As the title implies, most of the action happens in the shadows in a constant atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia, where characters are forced to constantly lurk and wander about disguised.
After escaping a horrifying Nazi prison camp, a journalist rejoins the French Resistance to exact revenge on the informant who sold him in. The movie delivers a cold, seemingly endless battle against the Nazis where characters find themselves unable to trust anyone, building up to one of the most devastating endings of any war film.
The Painted Bird (2019)
Visceral is definitely the best word to describe The Painted Bird, a nauseating journey through the depths of human cruelty and depravity in times of war.
Not for the faint of the heart, the movie has a very simple premise: at the height of World War II, a young Jewish boy wanders somewhere in Eastern Europe in search of shelter, witnessing unimaginable atrocities on the way.
Compared to other disturbing movies such as Come and See and even the controversial Salò, The Painted Bird doesn’t skimp on resources to meticulously become as dark as a film can get, which explains why it took 11 years to make.
Come And See (1985)
Come And See is considered the best war movie ever made according to Letterboxd, and is also the second highest-rated movie on the medium.
A straight-up anti-war film, the narrative follows a young boy who joins the Soviet resistance and survives amid the brutal debris of the war, coming across decaying villages and ghastly massacres by the hands of both allies and enemies.
The scariest thing about Come and See is witnessing how the boy changes throughout the film, as his vibrant idle eyes from the beginning give way to a horrified stare and a face that looks decades older in a matter of days.
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Shying away from any glory or heroism as it dives heads down into the mystifying depths of the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now is one of the many masterpieces Francis Ford Coppola directed in the 20th century.
In the film, a US Army officer serving in Vietnam is sent on a dangerous mission aiming at eliminating a renegade Colonel who has been engaging in illegal guerrilla missions into the enemy territory. Vicious and crude in its depictions of war, Apocalypse Now turns men into beasts in the Vietnam jungle: a land of defeat with no chance of redemption.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Saving Private Ryan was regarded, for a long time, as the most terrifyingly brutal war movie ever due to how realistically bleak it portrayed the combats against enemy forces. The first 30 minutes alone are a gripping masterclass in movie making with Spielberg portraying D-Day.
And as soldiers cross inhospitable lands and dangerous territory, the film offers several hard-to-watch death scenes with characters that viewers have come to like and care about, just like the real-life soldiers that gave their lives for their country and lost their family and friends. In the face of moral disgust and the corruption of one’s humanity, the remaining survivors come back home with a hole in their chests: a vast emptiness that will stick with them forever, always reminding them about what they’ve seen on the battlefield.
All Quiet On The Western Front (1930)
The question was, no doubt, asked, “How can anyone possibly top the cinematic achievement of the 1930 adaptation?” Both the old and new movie are based on the same book, an absolute classic that apparently has enough material for two different visceral films.
The classic All Quiet On The Western Front focused on the hopeless disillusionment of soldiers in the trenches as they witness unbelievable horrors that could’ve never crossed their minds when they signed up to fight. It’s definitely a great movie to check out before watching the newest interpretation of the story.
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