It’s pretty astonishing, and a rare example of technological trickery being used for good (as opposed to, say, the ugly ultra-high frame rate Jackson used in The Hobbit). While some of the footage is a tad unreal (faces, for example, seem to be frozen, floating atop moving bodies, although this may have to do with the subjects gawping at the unfamiliar cameras), They Shall Not Grow Old by and large looks incredible. Better still, it’s an effective documentary in its own right, telling a cohesive and emotional story about the soldiers’ experience on the ground, contrasting unaltered film in scenes filmed in Britain with Jackson’s transformed footage for the theater of war on the continent.
But the highlight might be the making-of mini-doc that follows the presentation, with before-and-after comparisons that should provoke oohs and ahs, and fascinating details about the efforts that went into refurbishing the footage. Jackson now has his hands on the hours of raw film from the Beatles’ notorious Let It Be sessions, with the plan of making a new movie out of it. This is promising: Judging by They Shall Not Grow Old, he’s as good at making archival documentaries as he ever was at all that Tolkien stuff.
*Not actually award-winning