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
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.