They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) - IMDb

2021 Movie Draft- Round 3 Pick 3- Quinn Maddux selects documentary- They Shall Not Grow Old

Film – They Shall Not Grow Old

Director – Peter Jackson

Stars – British Soldiers from World War I – Tommy’s

Category – Documentary

Year – 2018

Budget: N/A

Gross USA: $17,956,913 Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $20,433,798


Many times, things are overblown or taken to such a hyperbolic or preposterous level, that we have become numb to what these words even mean anymore. At the risk of being hypocritical here, I will say that Peter Jackson was born just to make this film. There is no one else that would have remotely done this film justice.

The British Imperial War Museum (IWM) had a massive number of archived materials concerning the Great War, and they wanted to make something to commemorate the 100 th anniversary of that event. They approached Peter Jackson in 2015 about making a documentary of the war using this material. The only stipulation that the IWM placed was that it needed to be respectful and interesting. I cannot say this with enough emphasis – Jackson completely OBLITERATED any expectations and has taken war documentary making to a completely other level.

Jackson and his team spent over a full year just figuring out what all they had in the material. In the 1960s the IWM had soldiers from the Great War come in and record their experiences in their own voices. While there were many directions that he could have taken this project, he focused only on the experiences of the British foot soldiers on the Western Front. There was footage of naval battles, aerial battles, and the war effort at home. There is hope that Jackson could do a similar project using that material.

One of the brilliant things was that Jackson hired professional lip readers to determine what the soldiers were saying in the film, then by using the insignia on their uniforms determined where the unit was from, then hired voice actors from that region so that the accents would be correct.

Instead of a typical documentary with a voiceover, Jackson used the recorded soldiers’ voices over the footage.

Perhaps the largest issue to overcome was determining the speed of the film. In the making of portion, Jackson discusses this with much detail. We are used to 24 frames per second, and our minds know when things are not exactly right. Well since this was hand cranked film, it could be anywhere from 10 frames per second to 17 frames per second. Next the footage was old and had not been cared for properly. Jackson and his team spent time to determine how to adjust the speed of the film to a 24 frames per second rate throughout. So much of the previous looks had discounted film that had been over or under exposed.

I am not a huge fan of colorizing old footage, but I think that Jackson and his team got this exactly right, because of the effort in making it right. Did they get everything exact – no, but it is really, really close.

This is a must see.

While it is amazing to hear the stories of those that survived, let us not forget how many stories were never written by those who were consumed by this and other wars.


  1. Awesome choice. Saw it in the theaters a couple years ago. Seeing what Jackson did with this- can’t wait to see what he does in his upcoming Beatles doc! I would agree with you this is a must see documentary. I haven’t seen anything better on WWI. … I don’t know how anyone involved survived.

  2. I just watched this again last week again after reading about the Get Back project. Jackson covers all of the details that make it so interesting. We get a glimpse into that time of the world at what it really looked like at that time…it is breathtaking.

  3. This is another one which I didn’t recognize by title, but I do remember seeing trailers for , and news show’ clips about, when it came out. I thought it might be quite good then… after reading your review,it has jumped up in my “to see” list!

  4. Like watching ghosts come to life. And, you’re right: It’s more effective that they incorporate what they might have said, and let the images and words do the “talking,” not some generic over-voiced narration. It was like watching a story unfold and being transfixed on the fact that these were (are) real people come to life! One of my all-time faves, and a GROUNDBREAKER for sure! Great post!

  5. Excellent choice, and it is this kind of meticulous filmmaking, where history is brought to life, that I love. Peter Jackson is a modern day hero in my book. Like Hans, I can’t wait to see what he does with the Beatles footage.

  6. Blown A W A Y by this film, the technical aspects were really incredible. Especially the last color shot with the beautiful yellow/violet hue. Great pick!

  7. I remember when this was being advertised. Some of it was covered in a special on AHC. I didn’t get to see the whole thing but, what I did see was incredible. I did, however, catch 1917.

    The recording of the stories from the veterans is something that I am familiar with. When I was living in Texas, I worked for the Veterans Land Board:

    We were a government agency that provided low cost loans to veterans for land, homes and home improvement. We also had nursing homes dotted across Texas as well as veterans cemeteries that we maintained. Three years into my employment, the unit established Voices of Veterans to do the same kind of recording…to hear the stories of what the veterans had experienced:

    The young woman in one of the photos is my former Supervisor.

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