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All Quiet On The Western Front

4

One stinging irony of Lewis Milestone's Oscar-winning 1930 adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque's novel is that the First World War was meant to be the "war to end all wars". Despite its simplicity, this fascinating, innovative early talkie gives a potent sense of why it should have been.

The action centres around Paul Baumer (Lew Ayres), a young German seduced into going to war by his teacher's fanatical rhetoric. Once he's on the rat-infested frontline, the film becomes a tale of innocence and cruel experience. Bombings, gas attacks, hand-to-hand fighting and lopped-off hands are just the start of it.

Of course, the plotlessness is part of the point - all this wasted life isn't necessarily adding up, certainly not to a happy ending.

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