They Shall Not Grow Old

The title is a misnomer: Peter Jackson’s documentary about the British soldiers of World War I is narrated by old men, veterans who were recorded by the BBC and the Imperial War Museums in the 1960s and ’70s. Collectively they tell the story of their war, from enlistment and basic training to the trenches in France to their return home in 1918; it is, by turns, funny, gross, terrifying, and heartbreaking. There’s neither glory nor heroism; after just a short time on the western front, most of them no longer remembered what they were supposed to be fighting for. One million of them died—just from the British army. The narration is accompanied by archival photos and film footage from the IWM, restored and colorized by Jackson and his crew and projected in 3D. This sometimes gives the visuals an artificial Madame Tussaud’s effect, but at their best, this is as close as we can get to a full immersion into one of the most horrifying and ultimately pointless wars in modern history.