Stellar New Zealand auteur Peter Jackson (after completing two trilogies from J. R. R. Tolkien) digitally refurbishes grainy archival footage of The Great War for the centenary of its armistice with much aplomb to amplify the British encounters in association with London’s Imperial War Museum.
They Shall Not Grow Old has an uncanny immediacy through the painstaking methods of the Oscar-winning helmsman and writer and his formidable collaborators to drastically narrow the gap between the material and the sound and fury in and around the battlefields to make it that more immersive.
A trek to a rigorous ordeal from home only to return again proves to be a forceful artistic endeavor (from the speed of the frames — fps — to colorization and 3D) that gives this non-fiction entry enormous potency. Even if details may be oversimplified and socio-political implications not as important as moderately transporting today’s onlooker into a time filled with fond (like brewing tea), though grim memories.
The humanistic element is quite intact for the enlisted lads, many just 15 or 16, who developed friendships while initiated into the hardscrabble hardships. Besides the brutality when all wasn’t quiet on the front, lice and dysentery, among other troubles and ailments they had to face.
Thus, Jackson’s tactical applications more than succeed with footage synced up with the veterans’ audio corroborations that underscore an intuitive chronicler as they are duly credited in the end scroll. The little instances are sharply rendered in ways that have that personal touch. One that honors the likes of the director’s grandfather, a sergeant in the war, who died twenty years before he was born, with vibrant, visceral depth.