Sunday, March 26, 2023

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (2022) (Capelight Entertainment 4K Ultra HD Review with Screenshots)

2-Disc Limited Collector's Edition Mediabook
4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray

Label: Capelight Pictures 
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: R
Duration: 146 Minutes 57 Seconds 
Audio: Deutsch Dolby Atmos, English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French,  with Optional English and German Subtitles 
Video: 2160p UHD Widescreen (2.39:1), 100p HD Widescreen (2.39:1) 
Director: Edward Berger
Cast:  Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Aaron Hilmer, Moritz Klaus, Edin Hasanovic, Adrian Grünewald, Thibault De Montalembert, Devid Striesow, Daniel Brühl

Netflix Original All Quiet on the Western (2022) is (sort of) based on the 1929 novel by Erich Maria Remarque, and could be considered a loose adaptation of it and of the well-regarded 1930 film adaptation, it was also adapted for a 1979 min-series, but there are notable differences 
throughout that make it stand apart from both the literary origins and the previous film, particularly the ending. 

Directed by Edward Berger the films set in 1917 tells the disquieting tale of the idealistic and patriotic 17 year-old German soldier named 
Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer) who enthusiastically enlists alongside his school mates to fight  on the Western Front during World War I. They imagin themselves besting their French enemy and marching proudly and victoriously into Paris.

That youthful vigor for victory is soon enough snuffed out after arriving on the Western Front, having been marched in on foot during a downpour the realities of damp, brutal trench warfare, fighting over a desolate scrap of war-scarred land that in the end means nothing to either side. Flares rise up, brightening no-man's land with a surreal beauty. Until all hell breaks loose again and the French bombard the trenches.

Told from the German perspective of foot soldiers the film occasionally breaks to the stories of a German official Matthias Erzberger (
Daniel Brühl, Falcon and Winter Soldier) and General Friedrichs (Devid Striesow), with Erzberger attempting to minimize further loss of German life by negotiating a cease fire with the Allied powers, while Friedrich who craves a bloodied victory, and launches an ill-fated attack on the French fifteen minutes before the cease fire is set to officially take effects. The film is peppered with scene of the bureaucrat and the general enjoying fine dining and creature comforts while the soldiers in the trenches are left to fight and die in a losing battle.

Life in the trench is a nightmare, food rations are low and the German soldiers resort to stealing geese from local French farmers to fill their bellies, the very act of which puts their life in danger as the farmers are armed and don't take kindly to German's stealing from them. Barraged by grenades, artillery and rifle fire we bare witness to the terror of trench warfare through Paul's eyes. There's some pretty horrific war-is-hell type gore throughout as with bloody wounds galore, bloody bayonet fighting, limbs are rendered, and we even see a battalion of French Saint-Chamond tanks overtake an area of German trenches, the tank tread obliterating a soldier caught beneath, right before a French flamethrower brigade arrives and starts roasting German soldiers alive without mercy for the invaders. 
The changes from the source material are significant in many way and overall they worked for me, I found it haunting but quite visceral as well. As told through Paul's eyes we see the spark of patriotism spoiled by the reality of war, and it delivers action and violence with an unsavory fly-on-the-wall focus of personal trauma, making it a terrifying and effective bit of anti-war filmmaking. 

The cast is fantastic all around, newcomer Kammerer is superb as the youthful soldier thrown into the last days of a dire war, transformed from an innocent into war-hardened soldier chiseled down by the horrors he not bares witness to but is part of, there's blood on his hands it it wears on his soul. His acting is top-notch, the depth of what he conveys through his eyes is pretty amazing. The acting from his comrades, most of whom die in the war, are also well-done, if not exactly deeply explored. 

Audio/Video: All Quiet on the Western Front arrives on region-free Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD framed in 2.39:1 widescreen. The Dolby Vision HDR 10 compatible UHD looks outstanding, the level of depth, detail and clarity is fantastic throughout. The color grading is mostly cool and subdued, but there are moments when the colors really shine with pleasing contrast throughout. Close-ups offer dazzling detail in the facial features and textures in clothing and uniforms are superb. 
The accompanying region-free Blu-ray offers a solid and well-authored downgrade of the UHD without the benefit of the high dynamic range, but is still a stellar HD presentation. 

Audio on both the Blu-ray and UHD comes by way of a bombastic German Dolby Atmos or English-dub DTS-HD MA 5.1, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in various languages. The English dub is quite good, but the German Atmos track is where it's at. The sonic depth is outstanding, making use of the expanded sound stage you are right there in the center of it all; the artillery and snaps of piercing gunfire, dirt and debris falling around you - it's quite an active and immersive tracks with solid fidelity and plenty of low-end depth to it.  The score from Volker Bertelmann ois more thrum than musical, but it works well for the film and adds a visceral musculature to it. 

The 2-disc UHD/BD arrives in a very handsome looking Limited Collector's Edition Mediabook with a 24 page booklet that includes "Sharing the German Perspective“ — a conversation with director Edward Berger and "A Machine of Death Unlike Any Experienced Before” — an interview with historian and professor Daniel Schönpflug on the historical background of All Quiet On The Western Front. The set is sturdy and has great shelf appeal. Extras are mirrored on both the UHD and Blu-ray, we get an Audio Commentary from director Edward Berger, 18-min Making of Featurette featuring writer-director Edward Berger, director of photography James Friend, producer Malte Grunert plus others, plus the original German, English, International and Teaser Trailers for the film, each running about 2-minutes more or less. There's not a ton of on-disc extras for an Oscar-winning movie but they are appreciated, and the 24-page booklet adds a lot it.  

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary from director Edward Berger
- 24-page booklet which includes " Sharing the German Perspective" - A Conversation With Edward Berger and "A Machine Of Death Unlike Any Experienced Before" - An Interview With Historian And Professor Daniel Schönpflug
- Making of Featurette (18 min) 
- Original Trailer (2 min) 
- English Trailer (2 min)
- International Trailer (2 min) 
- Teaser (2 min) 

Screenshots from the Capelight Blu-ray: