A new adaptation of All Quiet on the Western Front is now on 4K and Blu-ray that follows a young soldier in the atrocities of war. It's a different tale than its source material in the book and film, but it also navigates the peace talks more this time around, along with much more violence and carnage than in previous iterations. This is a marvelous-looking war movie with stellar performances. The 4K picture with Dolby Vision looks amazing and the Dolby Atmos audio track sounds demo-worthy. The bonus features are a bit lacking, maybe a more elaborate release is coming. Highly Recommended!
It's been over four decades since the last iteration of Erich Maria Remarque's hit novel All Quiet on the Western Front hit shelves back in 1929. With the 1930 film winning multiple awards and the 1979 TV version already seared in people's minds, it was about time someone gave the material a new look and even created a parallel story that not only followed its main character but also navigated the peace talks in WWI. This third version of the beloved book brings more action and brutal violence to its anti-war narrative making its own title seem ironic. Nothing is quiet about All Quiet on the Western Front.
The original novel and its award-winning 1930 film took to heart the haunting silence that war provides in soldiers. The young German teenager turned soldier Paul Bäumer takes in the chaos that surrounds him and finds those smaller moments of intimacy with his fellow soldiers and the hopeful beauty that can come out of such violence. In this new epic made for Netflix, director Edward Berger focuses on Bäumer again when he enlists in the German army with his friends. The reality of destruction that war brings almost instantly stabs Bäumer in all his senses, wiping away any of those fantasies or child-like dreams of becoming a hero for his family and country.
Edward Berger's version of All Quiet on the Western Front takes some liberties in changing the story and some characters. Some elements have been changed to tell those parallel stories of Bäumer and of the Armistice negotiations to end the war. Some characters have been completely written out in this Netflix version, but it doesn't make the movie worse by any means - just different. And since Saving Private Ryan so viscerally displayed the atrocities and horrors of war, that element has become the norm when war movies are concerned. This German-speaking film captures those moments of terror perfectly, similar to how Saving Private Ryan and even 1917 showcased it.
What this installment misses is the personal and deeply wounded character development of Bäumer as he traverses this wartime country and encounters battles and casualties. A lot of war films that are made for US audiences thrive on those big, epic action scenes of carnage. And even though this is a foreign film, it seems like the director Americanized it with larger war scenes throughout, something that the original source material and even the first adaptation to the film didn't utilize, leaving some of those long moments of character development left in the war trenches. That being said, these action sequences are top-notch and look phenomenal. Each character and situation has weight and feels sickeningly realistic, but comes with a certain beauty in its lens that is oddly sweet.
The performances from everyone are wonderful and bring the realities of war and suffering to the forefront, even if similar roles and performances have been seen before. The production design is some of the best ever committed to film and the new take on the story by bringing the peace talks into the mix was a great addition. This version of All Quiet on the Western Front is an often incredible experience.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
All Quiet on the Western Front yells its way to 4K + Blu-ray in the form of a great Digibook release via Netflix. The two discs are housed inside a Mediabook case that features artwork from the poster of the film. Inside is an attached booklet that consists of an interview with the filmmaker. There is no digital code here.
All Quiet on the Western Front comes with an impressive 2160p UHD 4K transfer with HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Having the true native 4K image here is much better than streaming it on Netflix.
The muted color palette sets the tone for the story with its many shades of grey and blue during the dirty and chaotic war-torn locations. Little hints of red and Caucasian skin tones enter the image which makes for a warmer palette. Other moments reveal the shiny, green trees and shrubs in the background with a nice crystal blue sky above with some brown dirt or wood in the trenches. The Dolby Vision adds those more nuanced colors in the icy cool shades during the fog-ridden and stormy weather that looks amazing. There are only a few warmer spots in the film that seem happier and natural, all of which look amazing here. The black levels are inky and rich with no signs of crush or murky shadows. The CGI effects never go soft or become pixelated either. Skin tones are natural and there are no instances of major banding or aliasing, even in the heavier smoke and debris scenes.
The detail is sharp and vivid throughout that revealing great closeups. Individual hairs, facial stubble, threads in the wardrobe, and textures in the weapons and steel all look wonderful. Explosions that throw dirt everywhere and wood can be seen easily here and the nasty, gory wounds show the muscle, bone, and blood perfectly. Those practical makeup applications look realistic. This is one fine-looking 4K picture with no problems to speak of.
This release comes with a demo-worthy German (with English subtitles) Dolby Atmos track. The ferocity of the war scenes is exemplary with big-sounding explosions, gunshots, yelling, and debris falling down. These sound effects are robust and pack a powerful punch with each impact. The directionality of the gun blasts and bullets flying is nuanced with smooth transitions between each speaker. The metal clanking of bullet casings falling to the heavy low end of the bass with giant explosions are incendiary. Footsteps in the dirt and wet mud also make use of those noises perfectly. The height speakers bring forth the thunderstorms with might and bullets flying overhead, along with debris that rains down. The low end of the bass has a great rumble to it with no evidence of rockiness. The score adds to the dramatic tone of the film and the dialogue is always clean, clear, and easy to follow along with the English subtitles. Ambient noises of soldiers talking and yelling in pain, along with other weapons discharging sound fantastic. This is easily a demo-worthy track for those who are wanting to show off their audio systems. It will get the job done.
An English DTS-HD MA 5.1 is also available, but Atmos is the way to fully experience this film.
There are only a few extras here, which is telling that there may be a bigger release somewhere down the road with more interviews and featurettes. Still, this small set of extras and its audio commentary is worth the time.
This modern version of All Quiet on the Western Front is wonderful on many levels. It looks exceptionally great on film, the brutality of war is top-notch and the characters and their performances are simply wonderful and moving. That said, this is a far cry from the original source material, but that's not a bad thing. All the technical respects of this film are wonderful and will be remembered for a long time too. come. The 4K image and its Dolby Atmos audio counterpart are both exceptional. The bonus features are somewhat lacking, but the case and artwork are excellent. Still, it would be nice to have a Digital Code included. Highly Recommended!