They Shall Not Grow Old is a new film commissioned for the 100th anniversary of the First World War, known at the time as The Great War, with the plan to take original footage from the war and the words of the soldiers from back then and create a narrative based around it.
Of course, any such video is not going to be in a great state, but if any man can take on the challenge and succeed, it’s the visionary Peter Jackson (The Hobbit) with his team at Wingnut Films. This leads to brilliantly-restored footage showing the whites of their eyes, as well as being colourised and retro-fitted into 3D. In fact, it’s just after 25 minutes that the colour first kicks in (following commentary-only), along with the recreated audio and dialogue, and a lot of it really feels like it was shot this year.
The original words of the soldiers in the war is heard in the commentary, and a great number of them were listed in the credits on BBC2, although they’re not listed on IMDB. I’m not sure if its’ also soldiers providing the voices for the colourised footage, or if they’re voice actors.
A number of moments which stood out for me are as follows:
- One soldier says, “You learn how to look after yourself and cook for yourself..” which is rather like how I felt when I went to University.
- Another says that they were “aware of a nasty feeling between England and Germany” – and how!
- A tip to soften your hard boots, and make them easier to deal with, by urinating in them and leaving it overnight…
- Although a lot of young lads faked their age to get into the Army – even encouraged to do so, all ex-soldiers were also asked to rejoin and were made Sergeants straight away.
- It’s baffling to see how they come across as excited to be going into war, but as soon as they arrive, the harsh reality kicks in, and smiling faces drop.
- I didn’t realise that the trenches weren’t in straight lines. They were made this way so if a shell hit, its impact was lessened, but perhaps a game like 2016’s Battlefield 1 left that out as it was too difficult to program.
- If you wanted to go for a poo, you’d have to do so by sitting along a pole with several other men. However, they had no toilet roll, so you had to had to use your hands, and you never washed at any time… BLEAH!
- Those who survived might get trench foot, or gangrene, and you’d just get your feet hacked off. Elsewhere, for areas of ground with wooden paths set out across them, you had to be careful – slip off those boards and you would fall into the mud and slime of decaying corpses, would sink under the surface and die. No-one would be able to save you.
- Most men would smoke because (a) it was still thought of as being a safe habit, and (b) there was nothing else to do when you were resting.
- Well, there was one other thing to do – brothels were cheap, and the boys quickly became men.
Below is my grandad, Stan, or Gaga as we always called him.
He injured his back when he, and the men he was with, had to jump out of a plane over The Rhine in World War II. They shouldn’t really have jumped out at that time, and he landed in a tree, after which he suffered Ankylosing spondylitis.
The rest of the 13 men all landed on the ground, but instead were spotted by the enemy and not a single one of them survived. The enemy thought Gaga was already dead as he was lying motionless in the tree.
Given the astronomical odds in which he managed to cheat death and survive, that means Gaga is the Jack Bauer of World War II! 😀 xxx
Stanley Walker Holland March 19th 1925 – June 14th 2009
Although I’m glad I’ve never had to go to war, as I’ve grown up, I’ve seen what a bunch of liars all the politicians are about the reasons for war. You know they’d never go themselves, but they’re content to send other individuals to their death, especially when they know they’re going to be sacrificing their lives for a lie and what is often no sane reason.
I’d love to have seen this on the big screen, and it was released in the cinema just a few weeks ago, in the same week as the new Halloween movie, but it wasn’t showing in too many places and/or at convenient times, but it has aired tonight on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice and will be on the BBC iPlayer after that.
As mentioned earlier, it was also made in 3D and I’d very much like to see it in that format, but no main broadcaster has a 3D channel these days, and the last new 3D TVs were made by Panasonic in 2017 (even though I’d very much like one of their 65″ models), so the TV broadcast was 2D only. I will certainly try to check out the 3D version as soon as possible, though, although, oddly, there’s no Blu-ray or DVD version scheduled for release yet, and certainly no 3D release.
The film shows dead men and horses, so you need a fairly strong stomach for this. It has a 15-certificate, but will be allowed to show such content given the fact this is telling things from an educational point of view.
Finally, I’ll add the words I heard earlier on BBC1, when it was recounted how the Armistice was announced as taking effect from 11am on November 11th 1918, and that the announcement was made at 6am, but while some commanders took it as read and called for no further action, a great number of men were still sent into battle right up until the end, with the last man dying at 10.59am, the sound of the Armistice ringing out as he fell.
Back then, no-one actually wanted to hear tales about the war from the men who survived and returned. Thankfully, people are a lot more informed today and have wanted to learn a great deal more over the years, and that leads to us hearing their words in this film.
It also shows how the men who returned are completely abandoned by their governments and society, and that is a shocking way to treat them.
And if the film, as a whole, doesn’t bring a tear to your eye at any point, you’re not human.
They Shall Not Grow Old may still be showing in selected cinemas, but it is now on the BBC iPlayer for just a week. It’s an outstanding achievement, and I expect Oscar/BAFTA nods in early 2019.
Running time: 99 minutes
Studio: Trafalgar Releasing Ltd
Released: October 9th 2018
Director: Peter Jackson
Producers: Peter Jackson, Clare Olssen
Editor: Jabez Olssen
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.