A powerful new film inspired by a true story. This feature follows the heroic lives of a world leader and a young man swept up in the horrors of WWII. Both men are from Hungary--a country and German ally that had been spared the atrocities orchestrated by Hitler throughout much of Europe. As the war reaches its climax, Germany begins to doubt the loyalties of the Hungarian leadership-in particular Regent Horthy (Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley). The Regent tries to navigate his country between the growing terror of Nazi Germany and the oppressive threat of communist Russia. He is ultimately faced with ceding power to another political party or accepting the execution of his son. As the crisis unfolds, thousands of his citizens are forced underground or put into ghettos. One of them is a young man named Elek Cohen (Jonas Armstrong) who is separated from his family and determined to find them. Aided by the woman he loves (Hannah Tointon), Elek disguises himself as a Nazi SS officer ...Written by
If you enjoy movies about WW2 or the Holocaust then you might find enough in this movie to make it worthwhile. It's a bit schizophrenic. Luckily the good parts outweigh the bad.
There's plenty of wartime action and suspense, and for the most part it's fairly well directed. It's the personal dramatic parts that occasionally fall flat, usually dragged down by some expository dialog that might as well have the actors holding up signs that read "here's a little bit of the history." Ben Kingsley's first appearance in the film is a good example. His hairpiece looks great but he delivers an uncharacteristically leaden balloon as he "converses" about the situation in his country. In his later scenes he's excellent.
The coda offers an equally clunky wrap-up of the story. It also left me scratching my head, wondering why -- since they acknowledge at this late point that it's based on a true life hero -- why they didn't just make it about that person. Was it perhaps a literary rights issue? If so, why bother mentioning the real person at all?
The direction and editing are also uneven, generally good but occasionally terrible. The big action or suspense scenes are very effectively staged and edited, but the "fade to black" transitions at times are more appropriate for a TV movie needing to break for a commercial than for an (alleged) 80 million epic.
And while the costumes and hairstyles are generally authentic, the lead actor's hair and the little boy's are way too modern, a constant reminder that we're watching a movie and these are only actors playing a role. If the whole story didn't depend on the lead passing himself off as a Nazi soldier, his millennial 'do might have passed muster. Note to future filmmakers: if directing a period piece, check out some old stock footage or paintings to make sure your hair department is on the ball... and don't hire actors who refuse to cut their precious locks.
Don't expect The Pianist or Saving Private Ryan but it's also far from the disaster some of the reviewers here report.
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