- Chad Womack
Chad Reviews "They Shall Not Grow Old"
Any time I have seen old silent films or newsreel footage from the pre-WWII era, it has had that jaunty, jittery, sped-up look to it. Everyone in them seemed like they were rushing to either put out a fire or relieve themselves of an overflowing bladder, and that tends to be very distracting to those of us born in a more technologically advanced era. When I first heard about the World War I documentary called “They Shall Not Grow Old,” I had the concern that it would be more of the same as I have seen before in this fashion, but when I found out that Peter Jackson was involved, I thought that this project in the hands of a man with his expertise and almost Zen-like patience would be the one to do what so many have failed to in the past and make the footage work in the modern age, so I went into this screening with complete optimism.
This film pierces the fog of war, viewing it through the eyes of a number of young, idealistic lads from England starting from the time they sign up to fight at even painfully young ages in a war they knew next to nothing about, to the front lines, and (for those fortunate enough to be able to do so) returning home again to a land that is not what they remember leaving. Utilizing footage that is almost a century old paired up with interviews with those who were there, the story unfolds with jaw-dropping clarity thanks to Jackson’s remarkable production team with cutting edge technology that slows the frame rate down and fill in the gaps that time has cost it with absolute mastery. By stabilizing the frame rate, colorizing most of it, and adding things that could not be done originally to bring the stories to life, that would be more than enough. However, Jackson even makes the decision to add 3-D to the mix, giving it an optic visual pop that has to be seen to believed.
“They Shall Not Grow Old” is nothing short of a master stroke delivered by a master storyteller. Jackson has accomplished so much in his vast career, and with the recent announcement of his next project being a documentary about The Beatles’ “Let it Be” album furthers my faith in his work and leaves me breathless as I await his next swim through historical stories.