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5 reasons why you need to experience Peter Jackson's World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old on the big screen


Today marks 100 years since World War I came to its end, and with Remembrance Day approaching this Sunday, thoughts naturally turn to sombre reflection as we remember those who gave their lives.

Released to commemorate this momentous chapter in history, Peter Jackson's astonishing new documentary They Shall Not Grow Old takes an unprecedented, intimate look at the cost of the Great War.

The movie is experiencing a limited 3D release in Cineworld from 9th to 11th November before its BBC2 Remembrance Sunday broadcast, accompanied by a Q&A with film critic Mark Kermode. Here are five reasons why you can't miss it.

1. It's Peter Jackson's most personal film

A bold claim given that Jackson famously marshalled his enthusiasm for J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels into the defining fantasy epics of our time. But he scales back the effects and scope for this far more intimate look at the cost of World War I, the infamously bloody conflict that marked a sea-change in combat, introducing mechanised weaponry into the battlefield.

Jackson was reportedly inspired to do the film by memories of his grandfather, a British soldier who fought in World War I, so there's no denying the depth of feeling in the project.

2. It revolutionises the way we look at World War I

Jackson's capacity for special effects is justly celebrated – from the early splatter make-up of Braindead to the sweeping CGI of Lord of the Rings, King Kong and The Hobbit, he knows how to use spectacle to dramatic effect.

They Shall Not Grow Old is a similarly remarkable accomplishment, but on a far more meaningful scale, as Jackson and his team spent four years painstakingly colourising 600 hours of footage from the Imperial War Museum and BBC archives, reclaiming it from the haze of memory and giving it striking new relevance.

The movie also deploys 3D technology to give added depth and resonance to footage whose power threatens to become more distant with the passage of time.

3. It restores the sound of the men in battle

Not only does the addition of colour help pull us further into the trenches and ravaged battlefields of the conflict, but Jackson has also utilised his ability for richly layered sound to add further perspective.

As well as deploying the traditional narrative voiceover from veterans, he has also used actors and lip-readers to dub over what soldiers are saying in the footage, eerily restoring life to those who fought and died. As Jackson says, he wanted to present the figures "as human beings, not as figures in a history book".

4. It's a stirring commemoration

As people around the country sport poppies in remembrance, They Shall Not Grow Old (deriving its title from Laurence Binyon's poem 'For The Fallen') purports to be a definitive statement on the horror and sacrifice of World War I, not to mention the dignity of those involved.

Critics have praised the movie – BBC Radio 5 Live's Mark Kermode says it's a transporting experience that "is almost like we're experiencing a memory".

5. It's a World War I movie like no other

Not quite a traditional documentary, yet also not a fictional construct, Jackson's new movie appears to exist within its own genre.

Forget the Hollywood presentation of World War I on the big screen – They Shall Not Grow Old is as raw and authentic a depiction of wartime as we can hope to see, and such importance demands the scale of the big screen.

"I wanted to reach through the fog of time and pull these men into the modern world," says Jackson, "so they can regain their humanity once more – rather than be seen only as Charlie Chaplin-type figures in the vintage archive film. By using our computing power to erase the technical limitations of 100-year-old cinema, we can see and hear the Great War as they experienced it."

Click here to book your tickets for They Shall Not Grow Old, screening in Cineworld from 9th to 11th November. Don't forget to tweet us your reactions @Cineworld.