Director: Peter Jackson
Running Time: 99 mins
They Shall Not Grow Old is a British documentary about the men who signed up to fight for the British Army during the First World War, and their lives at home and in the trenches.
The history of the First World War is an undeniably fascinating and important one, and the story of the men who fought in what was then the greatest conflict is even more fascinating, so it’s incredible to see it come to life in such striking fashion in They Shall Not Grow Old. Brilliantly remastered in colour and modern visual style, Peter Jackson brings the lives of the soldiers of the First World War to life like never before.
I’m sure you know the general history of World War One, and that knowledge is part of the main objective of this film, because rather than acting as a simple historical documentary that narrates the development of the war, it focuses more on the individuals and their lives during the war, both back in Britain and in the trenches.
So, if you are looking for a simple history of the First World War, then this isn’t the film, however it is a documentary that offers a sentimental and unprecedented in-depth look at how normal, daily life unfolded during the war, something that proves engrossing and unique throughout.
The film’s most striking element, however, has to be how it presents footage and images taken over 100 years ago in such vivid and dynamic colour. With an incredible restoration that turns what we often look at as rather ancient footage into something that wouldn’t look out of place on the big screens of the 21st Century, They Shall Not Grow Old is able to breathe stunning new life into the stories of the people who fought in World War One, and allow you to relate to their lives all the more.
In comparison to normal documentaries that just roll out archive footage, this film aims to be a more immersive experience that shows the reality of what went on during the war. So, with bright colours and a more natural frame rate, the footage is the most true-to-life depiction of the First World War that’s ever been seen, and if that doesn’t catch your eye and offer a new glimpse into the reality of the conlifct, then I don’t know what will.
Furthered by some wonderful voice performances from actors narrating the memories of soldiers during the conflict, the film proves an undoutedly immersive watch, managing to capture your imagination and see the world of the First World War in a more emotional and human way, rather than simply viewing it from a historical perspective, something that director Peter Jackson succeeds at brilliantly.
However, while the film proves an impressively sentimental and intimate portrayal of the history, I will say that it occasionally lacks the structure or direction to prove a thoroughly enthralling watch. Its general idea is fascinating, and the way that it is presented is truly striking, but as the film doesn’t really give any other structure to its topic other than going through a range of stories and parts of daily life that soldiers experienced, there just isn’t the same sense of intrigue that would make it a powerfully riveting watch.
Overall, They Shall Not Grow Old is a unique and striking documentary, complete with brilliant visuals and a fantastic success in portraying the history of the First World War like never before, although if you’re looking for a film that provides a more structured and riveting story, then the film’s slice-of-life style may prove disappointing, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3.