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  • Writer's pictureValerie A. Higgs

2023 Academy Award Nominee for Best Picture: All Quiet on the Western Front


Paul is a fresh-faced student who goes against his parents' wishes to join the German forces in battle during WWI. Almost immediately, he realizes that it is not all fun and glory.

I didn't see the original Academy Award-winning 1930 version of All Quiet on the Western Front, but we watched the TV version with Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine in high school. We were riveted.

It turns out I'm still riveted.

The cinematography was excellent. The score was used effectively and did not detract from the action - or non-action.

It was nice to see familiar face Daniel Brühl, who played the direct opposite of his character in Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. Brühl plays Matthias Erzberger, a representative of the Reich government who was tasked to sign the armistice.

I was stunned to learn that this was Felix Kammerer's first movie. He played the main character, Paul, who was so eager to join his schoolmates to enlist, despite his parents' wish for him to stay out of it. His acting is subtle, but you definitely felt his every emotion - especially during the last 15 minutes of the war. His expression upon learning they would fight right up to the deadline was very powerful: resignation and determination tinged with great fear.

Another standout was Albrecht Schuch, who played Paul's comrade, Stanislaus Katczinsky - otherwise referred to as "Kat." His performance caused me to look up his resume on my phone. He was obviously older than Paul and a cobbler by trade with a family back at home. Albrecht plays him as smart, funny, and someone you could depend on in the heat of battle and when the soup is being doled out.

The final war sequence was an exact mirror of the first sequence: Paul running through No Man's Land as those around him get picked off one by one; finding a fairly safe place to throw a hand grenade; then jumping into the trench for hand-to-hand combat. All quiet on the Western front, indeed. The only difference was Paul's experience. His complete boyish innocence had of course been stripped away by the end of the film, but no doubt his terror was exactly the same.

As of this date, I haven't finished watching all of the Best Picture nominees - I have three to go - but this one is my top pick so far. I don't expect it to win for various reasons, but director Edward Berger did a bang-up job.

Worth the nomination? Absolutely. Worth the Best Picture nod? Absolutely.

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