I am fortunate to see a lot of incredible films.

Still, I seldom call one of them a masterpiece. But that’s exactly what “All Quiet on the Western Front” is.

The German drama is appalling, astonishing, and a true epic in the old-school sense of the word. Graphic and grisly, it shows the ghastliness of war and forces viewers to consider the politics and tragedy behind World War I.

Twice before, this story – based on the classic novel – has been made, once in 1930 and again in 1979. This is the finest.

Told from the perspective of (mostly) young German soldiers, the gory scenes of battle and death are juxtaposed with leaders who, wearing their finery far from the mud and blood in which the younger men must wallow, argue about power and national pride. Meanwhile, young lives continue to be lost.

Paul (the impressive Felix Kammerer) is innocent and excited about enlisting … at first. He comments that he has been given someone else’s uniform, not realizing his apparel has recently been removed from a corpse.

I had the good fortune to watch this with a Vietnam veteran who is an aficionado of military history – particularly the details in headgear and uniforms. He was astonished by the attention to detail, right down to the last button.

Please take note: This is not family fare, nor is it for the faint of heart. This is a film that’s exquisitely beautiful in many ways and bone-chilling in others. Director Edward Berger puts viewers in the midst of all the chaos, the violence, and the death in the trenches in a kind of horror movie that’s all too authentic.

This is Germany’s selection for the Best International Feature Film at the Academy Awards. I hope it wins.

4 stars

Rated R for graphic violence and gore, disturbing images and foul language.

Running time: Two hours and 28 minutes.

Streaming on Netflix.

Watch the trailer here.