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They Shall Not Grow Old (2019)They Shall Not Grow Old (2019)

This film by the producer and director Peter Jackson was released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. At one level, the film is a technological marvel. Jackson and his team reviewed 600 hours of interviews from 200 veterans and 100 hours of archival film footage from Britain's Imperial War Museum, which he then edited and digitalized, including 3D and colorization. His goal was not just to recount the facts, as many have done, but to recreate what he called an "immersive experience." The movie combines the archival footage with voice overs from 120 veterans who describe their war experiences, and includes no narration or any references to exact dates and places. And so there emerges the deeply human stories of what it was like — the eager enlistments, even or especially by underage boys. The training, the food, the one uniform worn for four years, and then the indescribable savagery of trench warfare — mud, knee deep water, hordes of rats, dysentery, gangrene, frostbite, hunger, and the stench of rotting corpses. The British soldiers eventually came home to mass unemployment, an indifferent public, and the impossibility of conveying how, as "a race apart" from regular civilians, as one soldier put it, "we lived and acted like animals." Yes, there was relief and gladness when the war ended, but no singing or celebration. "It didn't exactly end with a whimper," said one, "but something like that." This movie has received a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Jackson dedicates the film to his paternal grandfather William Jackson, who served in the British army from 1910 to 1919. For more on WWI, see the famous poem by Wilfred Owen (1893–1918), Dulce et Decorum Es.

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