A fine silent classic that has held up very well, "The Big Parade" is one of the very best films of its era and of its genre. It has a nice blend of drama, action, and lighter moments, with plenty of good photography a...展开nd settings. The characters are simple, believable, and unpretentious, and they are brought to life well by the cast. Its commentary on the war is to the point, yet in a thoughtful way, without the heavy-handed cinematic ranting that mars so many films about war.
The early scenes work very well in introducing some of the characters and themes. Its portrayal of the USA's entry into the war is intelligently done, while holding nothing back in its perspective. By not assigning blame or responsibility to any specific persons or countries, it enhances its portrayal of the kind of mentality that so often prevails in such situations. It is a believable, and sometimes subtle, sequence that works quite well.
Once the movie gets into the main story, it uses the "parade" imagery well, and combines it effectively with the personal development of the characters.
John Gilbert and Renée Adorée work quite well together, and Gilbert's army pals are both used effectively. There are quite a few memorable scenes as it depicts a full variety of wartime experiences. The lighter sequences are used particularly well, not as raucous humor but as moments of the more sensitive side of human nature that is still there somewhere amidst all of the turmoil.
There's much more that could be said about such an absorbing film, but watching the movie is more rewarding than reading about it. It's neither an action-heavy war film nor a superficial, easily understood movie contrived to prove a particular point; it's something much better that fully repays careful attention and appreciation.