Music Box (1989) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
36 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Qualified to speak on the performances
msemmett4 July 2003
I was astounded in reading the comments on these films to see people saying that Armin Muehler-Stall's character is flat and empty.Also, those that say his angry outbursts are not threatening.

My father is a Hungarian immigrant who I have wondered where he has a similar "true story". I can say from personal experience that Armin's performances are consistent with my father's outbursts and for me personally were terrifying when seeing the movie.

In terms of the generalization that the performance was "flat", there is a cold, clinical, almost sociapathic sense to some elderly Hungarians. Additionally, I found Jessica Lange's performance COMPLETELY believeable as someone raised under such strong expectations and often silent or restrained about true expressions of emotion or fear.

That's my two cents. DO NOT underestimate the ACCURACY of this film.
39 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
You rock, Mr. Costa Gavras!
Nirankush Mukherjee15 September 2004
Awright, I don't approve of all your politics, Mr. Costa Gavras, particularly in "State of Siege" and "Hanna K.", but in this one you truly excel, both in terms of authenticity and a willingness to stay unprovocative when dealing with a sensitive issue as the Holocaust.

The movie is supposed to have been inspired by the real-life case of John Demjanjuk, an Ohio resident accused of war crimes at Treblinka and Sobibor, extradited to Israel for trial in the mid 80's. The movie even has a brief reference to this Demjanjuk guy when someone tries to pronounce his complicated last name in a conversation with Jessica Lange. Costa Gavras seems to be intrigued by our very perception of the Holocaust and our ambivalent approach toward it. Lawyer Ann Talbot's Hungarian-born father is accused of war crimes, her ex-father-in-law is somewhat scornful towards the inviolability of the Holocaust, and even had drinks with "those monsters" when the West used ex-Nazis as spies against Communism. Not to mention the difficulty of prosecuting war crimes 40 odd years later when justice can be won by either concocted evidence or the cunning of legal argument, and historical truth becomes less important.

The courtroom scenes and dialogues are truly remarkable in their restraint, and give the viewer just enough background as is needed about the atrocities of Arrow Cross in Hungary between 1944 and 1945. Specially the testimony of one Mr. Bodai is awesome, that of man so much ravaged by horror that his delivery is almost a monotone, with little emotional difference between responding a "yes" and a "no".

But it is Jessica Lange that outshines everyone else in performance, may be one of her best ever.
25 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An incredible piece of film-making by Costa-Gavras
adam-blackley8 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
An amazing film. I found myself hoping against hope that the accusations of murder against the Hungarian immigrant was false, and the slow realisation that he was actually a cold-blooded murderer (or had been) was devastating. The story unfolds in a satisfying and well narrated way, and we identify with Lange's character as wanting to believe (in the face of all evidence) her father is innocent. We go with her on the roller-coaster ride of the courtroom trial, and as each sobbing victim comes to the pedestal, her confidence fades and fades. The film features amazing performances by Lange and Mueller-Stahl, and the bitter resolution of the daughter disowning her father, and having to explain to her little boy (who loves his grandfather) is heart-wrenching but never sentimental. Costa-Gavras at his best.
15 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Gripping and Compelling Performances By Lange and Mueller-Stahl
domino100319 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"Music Box" poses an interesting dilemma: If your parent was guilty of a horrific crime, will you do everything to defend that parent? Ann Talbot (Jessica Lange) faces this problem when her father Michael Lazlo (Armin Mueller-Stahl)is being charged with war crimes during World War II in Hungary. Despite pleas from her co-workers, friends and even the prosecuting attorney (Frederic Forrest), Ann pushes on to defend her father. But as the trial progresses and the witnesses testify, Ann begins to have serious doubts as to her father's doubts.

The most heartbreaking scene is when Ann finds out just how horrible her father truly is. When she retrieves a music box that was left in a pawn shop by a now deceased friend, she finds the proof of her father's guilt. The look on Ann's face says it all: her father had betrayed her and that he is truly a monster.

Costa-Gavras's direction and the screenplay by Joe Eszterhas is wonderful (The ultimate irony being that what happened to Ann would soon happen to Eszterhas, when he found out after the film's release that his own father was accused of war crimes). However, the brilliant work of Lange and Mueller-Stahl is excellent. The viewer is Ann, wanting to believe the innocent of her father, but are incredibly hurt when you find out the truth.
14 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Holds up a decade later for its fine performances
Miles-109 June 2000
Excellent performances by Armin Mueller-Stahl and Jessica Lange (and even Michael Rooker in a thankless role) make "The Music Box" well-worth seeing (and seeing again). I also appreciated Costa-Gavras's establishing shots such as the dizzying image in a large building as Lazlo and his daughter go up an elevator to meet with federal prosecutors, pigeons on the window sill of the court room, etc. I liked the way Chicago and Budapest are used in the movie as two poles of the story. It is true that a few things do not make sense. Ann Talbot (Lange) accuses the US prosecutor (Frederick Forest) of letting the Hungarian government dictate his case, and the US does seem to rely entirely on Hungarian evidence, never bothering to look for any evidence west of Budapest. There is something to be said, however, for the suspension of disbelief. If the US prosecutors were not so incompetent, then it would not be entirely up to Talbot, the moral center of the movie, to uncover the truth and carry the responsibility for it entirely by herself. It is, by the way, the Hungarians and not the Russians whom Lazlo accuses of trying to frame him.
19 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A movie with a message
modalisorek12 July 2000
The movie focuses on two universal questions-do we actually know people we believe we do,including close ones,and does productive and outwardly respected life erase or diminish a past of hineous and sadistic crimes. I find the acting in the movie,including in the supporting roles,powerful.The courtroom scenes,with victims confronting a Hungarian ex SS man,deeply moving,and far from any cliche. worth noting is the senior lawyer,uttering his views about the holocaust to his grandson.One wonders what it will take to disrupt his aloof equanimity. I think that the movie has unique value,in light of the proliferation of the holocaust deniers,practitioners of historiographic hooliganism,by doing its part in telling us what happened.
10 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Jessica Lange in one of her best performances
Arne-1227 July 2000
This film is of course a dangerous experiment with ingredients like: a court drama, holocaust 40 years after and absolute no action at all. But because of the great performances by the actors, it ends up as a deeply moving experience.

And at the very center, Jessica Lange does a tremendous job as the lawyer and daughter of a Hungarian war criminal - or is he? She appears in almost every picture of the film, and I find her very convincing in her emotional ups and downs throughout. She does it with no glamour, but alone her incredible personality.

Most of the other actors does a great job as well, and the only reason for not voting it in top is, that the plot is not too convincing - but it first became obvious some time after I watched the film, simply because of the fine acting.

I voted 9/10.
21 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Lunar_Eclipse_Scoping31 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
*May Be Spoilers*

Jessica Lange has always been one of my top favorite actresses. Apart from being beautiful, she has the ability to make even dull characters seem vibrant, due to the fact that she usually just seems so fresh, unstudied, flexible. When you pair her up with a more demanding role or intriguing character, the results can be even better. Case in point is the part she plays in "Music Box": Ann Talbot, a single mother of one who happens to be an attorney. She is a woman who smiles or laughs when she's nervous or embarassed, always seems to be searching and scanning people's faces with her eyes, mentally interpreting everything they say and forming quick decisions and rebuttals. She also can "sneak up on you and clobber you", like in the brilliant, deceptive dinner conversation with Frederic Forrest that turns ugly. (You'll just have to see it, trust me.)

Lange seems to effortlessly tune us in to all the nooks and crannies of Ann's personality, which in turn makes us riveted in the emotional scenes of the film because we feel like we're seeing an actual person who we know and care about in such dramatic circumstances.

Armin Mueller-Stahl lends credible support as Laszlo, but this is Jessica's show pretty much all the way; we don't really know him at all as a character because the script gives him little to do, probably in an effort to make us not really know whether he's guilty or not -- until the end, of course. Frederic Forrest has the best moments apart from Lange as the prosecuting attorney who often resorts to typical arrogant machismo or petulance to prove his points, although the character also feels somewhat one-sided.

You can tell the film is Gravas's work, due to the political overtones and a small-group-of-people-working-together-to . . .-type plot. Technically well made and never dull, often rewarding, but that's due to the acting. I suspect with lesser actors involved it could have been rather bland. Kudos to the casting director.

See it if you're looking for a solid courtroom drama with standout performances, or if you're a fan of Lange, who gets to speak some Hungarian in the film as well -- impressive job again, Jessica!

My rating: 8/10
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Did John Demjanjuk have blood on his fingers?
Turan24 August 2001
The movie is based on the case of the alleged war criminal John Demjanjuk whose American citizenship was revoked and he was extradited to Israel for trial. In Israel, he finally was acquitted for lack of evidence. In the movie Costa-Gavras does have a strong opinion about the case, but in real life the all-important question "guilty or not guilty" was never answered properly.

A good movie, too good to stay in the cinemas for a long time.
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Serious Look at Axis Allies, and a chilling performance by Donald Moffatt
theowinthrop1 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Costa - Gavros has never been afraid to voice his political views, come what may. This includes indicting the U.S. Government in MISSING for collusion in the behavior of the Pinochet regime's killing an American citizen. He also has spoken harshly about Greece's junta in Z and other governments. In MUSIC BOX he looks at the issue of open collaboration in Eastern Europe by right wing governments from 1938 to 1945 with the Axis governments of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Hitler at his death in April 1945, and the trial of his leading minions and cut-throats in the immediate post-war years, did a favor of sorts for their allies in Hungary, Roumania, and other Eastern European states (as well as Western European states) who gleefully assisted in the Holacaust for their own reasons. Hungary was able to prevent the liquidation of the Jews there until 1944, due to the reign of the anti-Semitic but careful "Regent" Admiral Horthy. Horthy was unwilling to shed blood, as he was aware that Germany might not win the war and not be able to rubber stamp such a massacre in the future. But in September 1944 Horthy's regime was shattered when S.S. Colonel Otto Skorzeny kidnapped Horthy's son as a bargaining chip. Horthy basically retired from office, and a more pro-Nazi regime came in. It only lasted until the Russians came in the following March, but most of the Hungarian Jewish community ended up in the death camps. Several thousand were rescued thanks to the work of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenburg.

Hungary's newly installed Communist Government quickly tried and executed the leading Hungarian fascists (Horthy was imprisoned until he died). The Hungarians had had a pretty sophisticated and successful capitalist society in the inter-war period. They did not take kindly to the Communist regime, and in 1956 they revolted (see the film THE JOURNEY). That revolt was smashed due to western indifference. Hungary did not try it again, but as the decades slid by it practiced more and more capitalism - and closer ties to the west. When the iron curtain finally collapsed, Hungary was very quick to reemerge as a "western" style country (with the "Czech Republic").

But the fall of the Soviet empire also released tons of material for the West to read, not only about Communist collaborators, but also Nazi collaborators. The problem was that the west had to consider if the attacks on "Nazi collaborators" were honest reporting or attempts to smear innocent people.

That is the theme of this Costa Gavros film. Jessica Lange is a lawyer, whose beloved father is Armin Mueller - Stahl. He was a refugee from Hungary who came to the United States in the late 1940s, under the wing of Donald Moffat, a Army intelligence officer. Moffat's son married Lange, and they had a child, before the father died. Mueller - Stahl has grown close to the boy, and Lange is happy about this.

Then, one day, charges are filed against Mueller - Stahl by the Federal Government's prosecutor (Frederick Forrest) that Mueller - Stahl was an active, high ranking Hungarian Fascist who assisted the Nazis in the murder of Hungarian Jews. Lange is angry at this and becomes her father's attorney. Unfortunately as the case progresses, more and more documentation turns up that forces Lange to re-evaluate her father. She fights as long as possible - aided by the questionable people who supply the "proof". But as it builds, the facade of kindness and love by her father cracks. Mueller - Stahl has repeatedly appeared in films showing a lovely restraint in his acting. Look at his work as the immigrant to America in AVALON. But here he is playing against his normal type - when he finally shows Lange his basic repellent manner and fury he is chilling. He basically tells her to keep her thoughts to herself, or he'll take her kid away from her.

But even more chilling is Donald Moffat. He apparently found that saving Mueller - Stahl from a deserved trip to the gallows was quite useful for his own career in military intelligence. He certainly did well in that sphere. But it helps him immensely that he either does not care about the fate of the Jews, or that he openly questions the Holacaust (in one scene he even tries to start indoctrinating doubt into Lange's son, who is his grandson too). That such a character did so well in our country is a bitter pill to swallow, and yet it probably is not far from the truth in many cases.
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A commendable film that exposes the fallacy of the Holocaust as the national crime of Germany alone when in truth all Europe should be indicted.
Deusvolt12 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Jessica Lange should have been nominated for and won the Oscar as early as 1989 for this film. Beyond the superb acting of Lange and her supporting cast, however, the importance of this production is that it focuses on the little known truth that other European nationalities, in this case quite a lot of Hungarians, participated in the persecution of the Jews during and even long before the Nazi domination of Europe. Nazi sympathizers and material supporters were to be found in practically all countries of Europe, including Great Britain where prominent industrialists and even members of the Royal Family were known to promote that odious ideology. After all, England, was the first European country to expel Jews by royal legal edict in 1290. And, during the holocaust years, we now know that Ukrainian, Croatian, Hungarian, Austrian and other European peoples had their own pro-Nazi organizations that actively facilitated the deportation and extermination of the Jews.

After Germany's defeat, many Nazi criminals fled to countries all over the world including the United States. Some of them even posed as Jewish refugees. In this movie, SPOILER: the father of the character played by Lange curried the favor of US authorities by being a rabid anti-communist who went out of his way to demonstrate at cultural events sponsored by the Soviet Union. He wasn't play acting as indeed Nazis and their sympathizers were logically anti-communist. His motive, however, was to avoid being repatriated to Hungary where he was wanted for war crimes.
11 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
a MUST see
steve-22975 November 2005
This is a fantastic film. I live here in Budapest where part of the story is told. From what I have learned by talking to many people who witnessed the events of the 1956 Revolution, this film accurately depicts the situation, as grim as it is. This was the type of things that really happened. In this film you are spared the gory details, but what is told and the photos that are shown are vivid enough. The buildings on the street where I live today are riddled with pock marks from machine guns. I was here between 90 and 95 just after the country shed communism and witnessed the suspicion on the people's faces on the public transportation. Today (2005), since my return to Budapest, I have found the society to be much different, although the effects of communism can still be seen. People are not so suspicious, although many of those who lived through that horrifying time (late '40s well into the 'mid '50s), still believe that the secret police are a part of the system. This is the degree to which it effected the people. I have been to the places where evil things took place. I was here before the statues of Lenin and Stalin were removed, before the red star was removed from the Parliament, when the Soviet soldiers were still here. Creepy! If you want to know what the history of Hungary was like during this time, you MUST see this film. It is chillingly accurate to history.
11 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
dbdumonteil12 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of Jessica Lange's best parts and one of Costa-Gavras 's finest achievements.I have a tendency to prefer his American works to his French ones such as "Z" and "l'aveu".

Lange portrays a brilliant lawyer,but unlike so much Hollywood trial stuff,she has got something to lose in this case:she has got to defend her father ,accused of high crimes during WW2.Besides, "High crimes" starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman stole its screenplay from "Music Box".

The movie has a terrifying dramatic progression.At the beginning of the movie,we side with the father ,but,little by little,doubt worms its way into us.Absorbing from start to finish,I recommend this film to anyone who is sick and tired of these trivial trials where the actors overact.
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Powerful performances mask weaknesses and a lost opportunity
schappe115 September 2002
The performances in this film are uniformly excellent, from Jessica Lange doing perhaps her best work as a loyal daughter and efficient lawyer who comes to doubt the innocence of her father to Armin Mueller-Stahl as the father who continues to protest his innocence and demand her loyalty no matter what is revealed to Frederick Forrest as the obnoxious prosecuting attorney who nonetheless may be on the side of what is right. The film does an excellent job of manipulating emotions, (as a good film should). At first you feel the outrage that Forrest is attacking this close-knit family. Then you begin to feel the doubts that grow in the family as the evidence builds up. Your heart and your mind are always just where they should be.

Unfortunately this shields some rather amazing plot devises and the failure to explore an even more interesting issue. The manner in which the deciding evidence comes into Lange's possession is quite incredible, as is the fact that it would still exist. The question of how people in different circumstances can be very different people is unexplored. The question of how memories can be altered to fit one's needs is also untouched.

The film has considerable power but does not bear up to close reflection and is not as good a picture as it might have been. See "The Man In the Glass Booth" for something that goes beyond this.
8 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Quietly effective and touching courtroom thriller with very good performances
J. Spurlin23 June 2010
Jessica Lange is very good as Ann Talbot, a lawyer who takes up the task of defending her father (Armin Mueller-Stahl) against charges of Nazi war crimes. The charges are ridiculous to her at first, but she slowly begins to realize they might be true. Lukas Haas, giving an exceptionally bright-eyed and intelligent performance, plays Ann's 12-year-old son, who believes unquestioningly that his beloved grandfather is innocent.

Roger Ebert wrote that the father, while very well-played by Mueller-Stahl, does not devote enough time to helping us to understand his character, but I don't know that any film could do that for such a person. Mueller-Stahl and the script at least offer suggestions and let our imaginations do the rest.

I found this film, scripted by Joe Eszterhas and directed by Costa-Gavras, to be a quietly effective courtroom thriller (even though the idea of a lawyer defending her own father in this situation requires a high suspension of disbelief) and found the central drama of a woman discovering her father is, or at least was, a monster to be moving.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Intense Court Drama
ragosaal18 November 2006
Greek director Costa Gavras is the one that gave us such strong and impressive films as "Z" (based on the kidnapping and murder of CIA agent Dan Mitrione by pro-Cuban Tupamaro's urban guerrilla in Ururguay in the late 60's) and "Missing" (about the disappearance of a young American citizen during General Pinochet's military government in Chile in the 70's). No doubt the man liked to enter compromising and complex movies.

In "Music Box" he delivers a sort of court film drama about a lawyer in Chicago that defends her father when he is accused of being a war criminal in his youth as a member of the Hungarian branch of the German SS troops. Though perhaps sort of predictable, the film is intense and catching right from the start. Jesicca Lange renders one of the best performances of her career and so does Armin Mueller-Stahl in the main roles both most convincing.

With no major bumps along its 2 hours run, "Music Box" is an enjoyable and highly recommendable product in its genre.

Just for the record: in Argentina "Music Box" was renamed as "Mucho màs que un crimen" ("Much More than Just a Crime").
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Jessica LangeMusic box
gregoriobaggiani10 June 2011
Jessica Lange is absolutely great in her performance....... her conscience is torn between the desire to know the truth and, at the same time, to save her father from jail and moral discredit....... at the end of the movie she ends up discovering that her father is really guilty of the crimes he is accused of........ Jessica Lange is really a good, expressive and beautiful actress...... it is a pity she is seldom heard of, at least in Europe..... I hope I can still see her in the context of drama movies in which she is absolutely excellent..... Armin Mueller Stahl performs also very well in this movie drama, although his role is more limited than Lange's...........
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Good, but a tad predictable
CJ_0767 March 2003
Warning: Spoilers

This was a very good film, but I did have one problem with it. When one of the witnesses testifying against Michael Laszlo on his supposed war crimes, she says he said "A healthy body brings a heathly spirit" to her many years ago. That alone proved to me that he was guilty all along (you hear him say that to his grandson earlier in the film when he is doing push-ups with him). So the "shocking" surprise at the end of the film when we find out he was guilty when his daughter Ann found the pictures that proved he had done these hideous things he's accussed of really didn't surprise me. It seemed to me that a major plot-point had been given away too early in the film and I had a feeling of what was going to happen. That said, the movie is still well acted and well directed and will get to you on an deep emotional level. Jessica lange is absolutely flawless as Ann Talbot, as is Armin Mueller-Stahl as Michael Laszlo. It also shows that you know very little about those that you truly love. It may have been ignored when it first came out back in '89, but it's a worth a rental.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Superb and "rivoting" just like the cover promised
LangSci2 February 2003
I just finished watching this with my wife. The gut-wrenching detail is a slow-cooker of agony that is rivoting to experience. Not with special effects, but a mental crucible. Tugs on your ability to separate yourself completely from the story line. Excellent movie I highly recommend. We were very impressed. Sobering adult fair. Not for casual viewing. Lange is fabulous and thoroughly convincing.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
implausible legal drama
Michael Neumann13 December 2010
Director Costa-Gavras is only a hired hand for this topical thriller, which asks the question: what do we really know about our parents? But, in answer, the film serves no real purpose except to force audiences to wait 130 minutes for Jessica Lange to find out what should have been obvious from the start, that her father is a brutal, sadistic ex-Nazi war criminal. Lange portrays a lawyer defending her dad in court, but because the question of a possible conflict of interest is never raised it's difficult to put much faith in what follows, mostly repetitive testimony and surprise witnesses (plus a scenic detour from Chicago to Budapest). All the airtight evidence against him won't shake Lange's illogical conviction that her old man is innocent, but hack screenwriter Joe Eszterhas makes a fatal mistake for any mystery scenario by letting the audience know more than his characters on screen. The film is a more a disappointment than a failure: a merely humdrum drama inflated by a false sense of its own prestige.
5 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
John Demjanjuk just died
Lee Eisenberg23 March 2012
John Demjanjuk's death a few days ago makes Costa-Gavras's "Music Box", based on the case of Demjanjuk, all the more significant. It's about a Chicago lawyer (Jessica Lange) having to defend her Hungarian immigrant father (Armin Mueller-Stahl), charged with collaborating with the Nazis. He claims that it's a plot by Hungary's Soviet-backed government to target him. She believes him and uses the trial to call into question the credibility of that government. But then there's a little trip to Budapest required...

Criticism of the movie is apparently that it too closely mirrors the plot of Gavras's previous movie "Betrayed", while not delving too deeply into the characters. I didn't see that. What I saw is the question of how well we know our own families. I certainly found the courtroom scenes intense, and in the end I recommend the movie. Also starring Frederic Forrest (Chef in "Apocalypse Now"), Lukas Haas (the boy in "Witness") and Michael Rooker.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
riveting movie
blessings30 August 2007
I am not a movie buff...Just happened to be "in the house" this time of year because of allergies, turned the TV on and watched most of it remaining ...Will try and see again...I had never seen the movie, so came here to find out more about it...Am not familiar with the Producer everyone mentions, but feel this movie was well done...Held my attention and would like to see again...I love coming here to see what others thought about a movie and they often give me some of the details I didn't catch...Still things about this one I didn't pick up or understand..As to the ending, made me wonder, was the evidence enough to convict or could he not be tried again???
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An excellent Film
aceellaway201020 June 2016
I have this movie on ape and occasionally re watch it. I think it is very watchable. Jessica Lange is excellent in a very difficult role, as is the man playing her father, I found him very believable in his portrayal. The story and development are all very good. I easily recommend this movie. it is interesting , moving and well done. It should be more well known. Certainly the basic story is compelling, the details are enough to move you without the need to resort to too much graphic images. The predicament of Jessica Lange's character is just awful to imagine. We know that many people who have done wrong things lie to themselves and pretend that they haven't, this story of such a case is harrowing.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Great Courtroom Drama
gavin694217 March 2016
A lawyer (Jessica Lange) defends her father (Armin Mueller-Stahl) accused of war crimes, but there is more to the case than she suspects.

Roger Ebert gave the film a lukewarm two star review. Among his complaints were that the film was "not about guilt or innocence; it is a courtroom thriller, with all of the usual automatic devices like last-minute evidence and surprise witnesses" and that "Nazism is used only as a plot device, as a convenient way to make a man into a monster without having to spend much time convincing us of it." He is right, but I do not think this takes away from the film. Maybe not as hard-hitting as other political thrillers, it is still a strong drama.

For me, it was great to see Michael Rooker. His role is very small, unfortunately, but it may be one of the most "normal" roles he has ever had to play. He is not a killer or an alien or anything weird, just a member of the family.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
two thumbs up, everyone needs to watch this!
lasttimeisaw30 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Costa-Gavras's USA production MUSIC BOX is a slow-burn holocaust introspection set in Chicago during the 1980s, where a divorced attorney Anne Talbot (Lange), decides to defend her father Michael J. Laszlo (Mueller-Stahl), who is a Hungarian immigrant and is accused of war crimes during WWII, only to discover things that will shatter her entire belief system.

Simply deeming the case as a mistaken identity, Anne has firm belief in her father, who flees to America as a refugee after the war, gets married and then raises Anne and her brother Karchy (Rooker) alone after the early death of their mother, he is such a loving father figure, being greatly admired by Anne's son, his grandson Mikey (Haas), so there are high hopes that justice will prevail in Anne's side, especially set side by side with the aggressive prosecutor Jack Burke (Forrest) from the Office of Special Investigations.

Over a half of the picture is a standard court drama, where key witness affirmatively recalls all the horrifying atrocities Mishka - Michael's original name - has done as a commander of an Arrow Cross death squad, the scale has been slowly but surely tipped in Anne's conscience, it is extremely hard for anyone to come to terms with such a painful realisation - your amiable old man was once an extreme racist and a ruthless killer, the flagrant crime he has committed is beyond any sane person's widest imagination. The last nail in the coffin is the photos hidden in the titular music box, in the car by herself, Jessica Lange delivers an utterly compelling tour-de-force after this appalling revelation, and the subsequent confrontational scenes with her father, where she sadly realises Mishka has never changed, he was a Nazi in his youth, and he has always been a Nazi with his vicious prejudice towards those whom he calls "pigs" in the wartime, time can repair many things, erase our memories, but it just cannot change one's innermost self, no matter how friendly Mishka seems to be in the peace time (he can fond a genial bond with Anne's gypsy assistant, whereas 40 years ago, he murdered scores of them and cursed them " wine"), his true nature is always lying beneath (like the push-ups), unrepentant and will have no qualm in revealing itself if there is a chance.

The film is a grand canvas for its actors, apart from Lange's Oscar-nominated turn, Armin Mueller- Stahl impresses vehemently with his repressed monstrosity, a man who can confidently make peace with his inhuman transgressions and shares a shockingly intense face-off with Lange in the climax. So is Frederic Forrest, shouts out the most important message about what new generations should do towards the holocaust, he is in no intention to persecute an old man, the entire case is a reminder that we should never forget why and how these tragedies happened, to remember, for generations and generations, so we have a good chance not repeating it in the future, since human beings always make the same mistake, again and again.

Loosely based on writer Joe Eszterhas' personal story, MUSIC BOX is a formally rigorous (the hurried do-the-right-thing finale), politically clear-minded, and courageously adamant (to fault the ugly side of humanity) melodrama, gravely needs a re-introduction to the new generations of audience since the subject matter is ever so timeless and important, two thumbs up to Costa- Gavras and his crew.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews