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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: Peter Jackson's "They Shall Not Grow Old" is an incredible achievement

Feb 01, 2019 06:42PM ● By Dan Metcalf

They Shall Not Grow Old - © 2019 Warner Bros.

They Shall Not Grow Old (Warner Bros.)

Rated R for disturbing war images.

Directed by Peter Jackson



With the passage of generations, so much of our history is lost, even horrific events such as World War I, also known as “The War to End All Wars.” We are seeing the same historic decay as the last veterans of World War II decline in number, most of them in their 90s and approaching centenarian status. Books and Internet databases may contain most of the basic stuff, like causes, timelines, battles won or lost, and the major public figures involved in such conflicts, but the oral histories, the personal struggle, and the emotional effects are the last casualties of any war, especially one as bloody and horrific as the First World War. They Shall Not Grow Old is the product of Peter Jackson, a documentary unlike any other.

Jackson transforms rare black-and-white films into colorized scenes, narrated by 120 actual surviving British veterans (there are no other narrators other than the soldiers themselves), recorded and preserved before their deaths by the Imperial War Museum. Taking things a step further, Jackson also used special effects to convert old 1914-18 newsreel films shot at 14-15 frames per second (which is why you see most older films “sped up”) to 24 frames per second, using computerized effects to fill in the gaps and make the images move in “real time.” He also added voice actors and natural sound effects, using lip readers to interpret what the men were saying in the silent films. The result is surreal, framing the men with very real personas and eerie expressions in the face of war.

It should be noted the They Shall Not Grow Old is not a history film, nor does it ever mention any particular date or battle. It’s also exclusive to the British infantry experience, leaving out any details regarding the naval or air campaigns.

They Shall Not Grow Old is often tragic, sometimes astonishing and occasionally funny as the old soldiers’ voices express many varied emotions, having survived one of the bloodiest and brutal wars known to man. These men were witnesses to some of worst battle conditions ever seen, including living the filth of trench warfare, along with being blinded, maimed, burned or permanently disfigured by chemical weapons.

I highly recommend They Shall Not Grow old, with a little caution for those who might find some images truly disturbing, including a lot of gore and violence. You may be used to such things from so many movies featuring special effects, but you can be assured that all the images in They Shall Not Grow Old are the real thing, with astonishing technological assistance. 

They Shall Not Grow Old Trailer