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'You Won't Believe Your Eyes' in They Shall Not Grow Old

Peter Jackson's documentary offers 'haunting' look at WWI
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2019 12:18 PM CST

(Newser) – "Haunting," "heartbreaking," and "honest," are just a few words being used to describe They Shall Not Grow Old, Peter Jackson's documentary compiled from century-old World War I footage. For 21st-century audiences, Jackson adds 3D technology, color, and soldiers' voices to give the scenes new life. Critics are essentially in awe. Four takes:

  • At the AP, Lindsey Bahr concludes They Shall Not Grow Old is "perhaps the most honest collective account of the Great War that's ever been committed to film" and "very much worth taking the trek to the theater." "It's just images and the voices of those who were there, telling their own stories. And the result is riveting—an immersive, haunting and often transcendent experience that's unlike anything you've ever seen before," she writes.
  • "You won't believe your eyes," as Peter Travers puts it at Rolling Stone. "Technology has allowed Jackson to erase the barriers of time and speak to a new generation about what war does to youth. His humane and heartbreaking film is a profound achievement," he writes, also giving credit to Jackson's "crew of restoration miracle workers."

  • The film "does not offer a historical encounter, so much as an encounter of humanity, a psychic linking of hands across time," writes Mick LaSalle at the San Francisco Chronicle. "The faces of these men leaped off the screen." He highlights one scene showing British soldiers getting chummy with German prisoners of war. "An hour earlier they were trying to kill each other. Now they're laughing and trying on each other's hats."
  • "Jackson has taken a mass of World War I archival clips from Britain's Imperial War Museum and fashioned it into a brisk, absorbing and moving experience," writes Ben Kenigsberg at the New York Times. Footage is "substantially doctored" to make it "more immersive." But the sound effects "are the movie's best addition," Kenigsberg writes. There are even "squeaks for the rats who invaded the trenches and fed on human flesh."
(Read about the making of the film.)

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