‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ Offers A New Perspective of the War to End All Wars

Looking for a unique experience over the holidays? Consider viewing Peter Jackson’s (Hobbit, Lord of the Rings) movie that is a real-life experience of the ultimate quest: that of placing one’s life on the line for values that may seem as alien as those of Frodo on his trek to Mount Doom–duty, self-sacrifice, country and comradery.

The film, They Shall Not Grow Old, will be shown at a limited number of cinemas in Flint and surrounding areas on Thursday, Dec. 27. While technically a documentary, the movie is ultimately a passion play of Everyman.

Jackson and his crew have updated World War I footage for the Imperial War Museum, in particular using modernized colorized and synchronized film speed techniques. The end product provides the viewer a much more relatable impression of the common soldier’s life–individuals that would be someone’s grandfather or great-grandfather today.

This year marked the centenary of the end of the first World War. The movie does not draw grand tactical or strategic conclusions. Rather, one may be asked to identify with the motivations, the horrors and the aftermaths of those who participated in the trenches in the War to End All Wars. Not to ruin the film, but that did not occur.

The vignettes are poignant and should leave one’s afterburners alit for some time. For example, one episode details a group of soldiers preparing to engage in combat. There is a close-up of one young soldier and the fear is palpable on his visage.

In the second part of the presentation, the narrator states most of those in that scene likely were butchered as they pursued an ultimately hopeless objective. The look on the young soldier’s face exemplifies all that is wrong with the pursuit of old men’s dreams via the loss of young men’s blood.

True, not a movie for many who seek their entertainment in a Ren and Stimpy realm of ‘happy, happy, joy, joy.’ Yet the audience may come away from the production in appreciation of what their forefathers gave up so they could pursue the bargains of the post-Christmas whirl as well a deeper understanding of the connotations of ‘Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.’

In the second part of the presentation Jackson also talks of how the film was made, which may be interesting not only for filmmakers but non-technical minded audience viewers.  

According to a deadline.com article discussing the first screening on December 17, the film garnered over two million dollars based on two show times at over 1,100 theaters–not bad for a film ineligible for an Academy Award.

Up to the minute showtimes can be found here by entering a city or zip code and choosing December 27.