Review: They Shall Not Grow Old

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The best part of They Shall Not Grow Old is a postscript: Following the credits, director Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) appears on screen to discuss the making of his remarkable World War I film.

The documentary immerses viewers in the daily experience of British soldiers, from the rush to volunteer through boot camp and on to the Western front. Post hoc interviews with survivors are layered atop restored video footage from the war. And oh, how well-restored it is!

The idea, Jackson explains, was to turn 100-year-old film into something that might have been shot today. By retiming it to the modern standard of 24 frames per second, through painstaking colorization, and with the addition of voice acting and sound effects, he very nearly succeeds. Jumpy, scratchy, black-and-white images come into focus, and blurry, faceless figures come to life. All that realism and immediacy add up to a reminder that wars are fought not by countries or even armies but by men.

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