ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

World War I On The Western Front: They Shall Not Grow Old

Updated on December 28, 2019


Few people alive today have any firsthand recollection of World War I. Nobody who served in the conflict remains to personally recount those years. For several years, director Peter Jackson, best known for his The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, devoted his efforts to examining hundreds of hours of footage and over 100 testimonies from World War I veterans to prepare a documentary commemorating the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. The result is They Shall Not Grow Old, where Jackson doesn't simply put together words and images to create a narrative. He adds color, sound, and 3D to tell the tale of the battle from beginning to end, focusing on the English efforts on the Western Front.


They Shall Not Grow Old made its debut in England shortly before the century mark of the war's conclusion. The documentary started making its rounds of US theaters near the end of 2018, courtesy of Fathom Events, who sponsors various specialty and limited run entertainment events. When I saw the trailer for this film months ago, I was skeptical of the enhancements Jackson made to the footage he'd been permitted to access. However, Jackson made color, sound, and 3D work without bringing attention to these additions. As he explained in a short feature that accompanied the Fathom Events show, he wanted to create a film the way the soldiers lived it, which was not in black and white and without sound. I especially liked a sequence where a British officer gave orders, and the words came in sync with his mouth. He also did plenty of research to ensure the colors of the uniforms matched the World War I gear.

He also arranged the testimonials, which were done by the BBC some fifty years after World War I concluded, in such a way that they formed a cohesive narrative. It has an everyman approach, much like the way Christopher Nolan structured his screen story in Dunkirk. Veterans, many of whom lied about being at least eighteen, recall their enthusiastic decisions to enlist to fight the Germans, as well as their often-harrowing experiences with trench warfare. Some of them recount how they were among the few survivors of certain battles, while others talk of the wearying experience of the war. The footage has a grainy, home-movie look to it, but Jackson often includes the more graphic details of the conflict. As stark as some of the images and words were, I found the final remark included the most telling about those four years.

The only other things added to the words and images were sound effects and a musical score from Plan 9, a New Zealand trio that has worked with Jackson on his The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. He also included a cover of a popular World War I song performed by some British consulate workers he enlisted for the task. In the feature, Jackson describes his documentary as his most important work. In the end credits of the documentary, he includes a photo of his grandfather, who served, but was never the same physically. He also includes a shot of an uncle who died about a year into the war. This is easily the best movie Jackson has made.


The saddest thing about the screening I attended was that They Shall Not Grow Old played to a virtually empty theater. The friend who came with me and I were two of the three people who attended. Those who opted for some other movie missed a teachable moment about the price of war (Thankfully, interested viewers can rent this title without paying Fathom Events prices). The dead pay the ultimate price, but the survivors live with both the heroism they saw and the horror all around them. The veterans were, in some ways, the fortunate ones. That good fortune, though, came with a price they wish for nobody to forget.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give They Shall Not Grow Old 3.5 stars. A respectful and somewhat unique look at war that pays tribute to those who served.

They Shall Not Grow Old trailer

© 2019 Pat Mills


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)