They Shall Not Grow Old – Emotional and Powerful – Review

Over the year’s Peter Jackson has advanced in his filmmaking, from the early days of Bad Taste (1987) to The Hobbit trilogy and with the advances in technology, Jackson has taken them under his wing and that show in They Shall Not Grow Old.

This new documentary which has been in cinemas and last night was shown on the centenary of the end of the war, takes never-before-seen footage from World War I and brings it to the screen in an emotional way to commemorate the centennial of the end of the war.

They Shall Not Grow Old starts with the old footage from the 1910’s in a small screen format that slowly gets bigger on the screen, the footage is raw, untouched, and shows a time that has long since passed. What makes this documentary so distinctive is that the commentary, throughout the film, is from the veterans from World War I, taken from the many archives to give us an emotional connection to those that survived the horrors of the war.

After a while, the film expands to the full screen and the colourization comes into place along with the added effect of the film being less jerky than you would expect from the hand-cranked cameras that were used at the time, bringing us a fresh look at those that fought in the war, before the move to the trenches and the nightmarish landscapes that they would be spending their time in and some would never leave.

The sound is wonderfully reproduced with Jackson bringing in professional lip-readers to find out what some the soldiers were saying on camera and these are superbly produced and dubbed, along with the sound effects that put us in the middle of the trenches.

The technology to produce smooth transitions is fascinating in They Shall Not Grow Old, but without going into the technical side of it, Jackson’s team has taken the footage and put it through some amazing software that has filed in the frames with generated images to produce the smoothness, making the film as close to possible to what the troops would have seen at the time.

Jackson comments: “I wanted to reach through the fog of time and pull these men into the modern world, so they can regain their humanity once more – rather than be seen only as Charlie Chaplin-type figures in the vintage archive film. By using our computing power to erase the technical limitations of 100-year-old cinema, we can see and hear the Great War as they experienced it.”

They Shall Not Grow Old‘s colourization is stunning, I’ve seen many black and white films that have been coloured and they never look right, but in this documentary it’s superb, it’s not perfect and even Jackson has said that if they had more time it would have been better, but for me it gives the film a wonderful look and the scenes that I did find fairly disturbing, such as in the trenches and the bodies of the slain soldiers, the colour palette works very well .

They Shall Not Grow Old - Review on Blazing Minds

I found They Shall Not Grow Old to be a powerful and emotional documentary to watch, not just for the horrors that the men had to go through in the trenches, but also later in the film, hearing about how a lot of them were treated when returning home, such as the lack of jobs for them and when they mention that no one was interested in what they had done, even though they had fought for the country.

This is a film that I recommend everyone to watch, old and young, remember what these men went through in a war that was started after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria-Hungary and lasted from 1914 – 1918 with Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire (the Central Powers) fighting against Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and the United States (the Allied Powers).

We should never forget those that fought in the war and after 100 years, They Shall Not Grow Old, is a wonderful production and tribute to those that made it back home and to those that never came back from Peter Jackson that takes us on a journey from the men joining the army to the point where the war ends and the boys come back home.

THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD, is available from today on digital download and will debut on Blu-ray and DVD from 10th December. A special 30-minute Q&A with Peter Jackson will also feature on both the Blu-ray and DVD releases.

A Powerful and Emotional Documentary


They Shall Not Grow Old is a powerful and emotional documentary from Peter Jackson, a film that is a wonder to watch and must be seen

Karen Woodham
Karen Woodham is the founder and owner of the Blazing Minds. She is also a Cinema reviewer, based at the Scala in Prestatyn and also works with RealD 3D reviewing the latest 3D releases, she has also had several articles published in various publications. In 2015 she became an Award Winning Blogger and also has her website listed as one of the UK's Top 10 Film Blogs.
Karen Woodham