Filmmaker Peter Jackson’s grandfather was in World War I. Growing up hearing stories, Jackson was fascinated with tales of British servicemen being taken across the sea into Belgium and France fighting for their lives and their countries, all not knowing if they would ever come back again. Most of these soldiers were barely old enough to be called adults, but all grew up fast among the bloodshed and woeful living conditions on foreign soil. For the first time ever, Peter Jackson presents the public with never-before-seen video footage of one of the bloodiest wars in history, in full color. Watching the film, the viewer witnesses the war with their own eyes and listens to curated audio recordings spoken by the British soldiers themselves.
To listen to these men speak of their experiences and see the war as they would have is a humbling experience, to say the least. These men dug trenches, lived with rats, and hiked through mud, just to be killed in no man’s land between the trenches. Nothing can compare to what they experienced, not even the time Jackson spent pouring through hundreds of hours of audio footage and the 100 hours of video footage to bring these men’s stories to life. The viewer watches as the British army march through the muck and stare at the camera as if it were some alien object, the likes of which they truly had never seen. The horror, fatigue, and stress shine in their eyes and show in their movements in vivid, breathtaking clarity. Best watched on Blu-Ray, the war passes before us from the beginning, when men were goaded into fighting for their country, until the end, when the men would come home to the complete ignorance of what they had gone through by their friends, family, and communities. Viewers would be well served to check out the special features to realize the work put into a documentary of this magnitude. Produced, in Jackson’s own words, for non-academics by a non-academic himself, They Shall Not Grow Old will be gracing our collection for years to come as a master collection of World War I footage and personal war-time experience.