War brews over Warsaw in 1939, and while life is still running its course, the Germans are slowly beginning to make their presence felt, with Hitler secretly preparing for the German invasion of Poland. Under those circumstances, the young couple of Jan and Antonina Zabinski continue their daily routine as owners and keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, but soon, as German Luftwaffe's Stukas hammer the Polish capital, their life's work together with the city, will turn to ashes. However, with the zoo liquidated for the war effort and many of its animals tragically perished, what was once an animals' zoo, will now serve as a sanctuary where Antonina, the humanist veterinarian, and Jan can hide the persecuted Polish Jews in plain sight until safe houses are found. That was Jan and Antonina's formidable, yet perilous plan, who regardless of the consequences, refused to wither before the Nazi menace, took matters into their own hands and sheltered 300 Jews under the Germans' noses.Written by
It's never a good sign for a movie when there's more emotional response being wrung out of animal deaths than human causalities and for Whale Rider director Niki Caro's adaptation of Diane Ackerman's bestselling book, it's even worse considering the subject material here is dealing with a heartbreaking World War 2 tale of unimaginable loss and torment during the Nazi occupied time in Poland of the 1940's.
The Zookeeper's Wife should be a film being talked about for end of year awards recognition but this pretty, yet unfortunately heartless drama fails to connect us properly to the plight of zoo managing couple Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who during the course of World War 2 risked their lives to save 100's of Jewish citizens escape the clutches of the invading German forces after their beloved zoo was bombed to pieces and taken over by Hitler's army in Warsaw.
It's a fascinating and seemingly not well-known true story that should be ripe for the big screen, much like classic World War 2 big screen pictures like The Pianist, Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas and even Schindler's List but Caro and her team fail to ever ignite the story of the Zabinski's to the levels it deserved.
Things start out promising enough as we're introduced to zoo life in peaceful Poland before war breaks out but Caro and her cast that's headlined by what could be normally ace actress Jessica Chastain's worst lead performance as the kind hearted Antonina and another terrible Daniel Bruhl turn as nefarious Nazi zoologist Lutz Heck (that seems to be his by now type casted role), can't make things work.
With Chastain's distracting Polish accent in the forefront, poorly established scenes of the Zabinski's and their interactions with their house guests and just a general sense that we're never getting the best out of what the story should be delivering, The Zookeeper's Wife ends up being an experience that leaves us feeling rather empty, even though we clearly understand that what was done was nothing short of heroic and heart-warming.
Final Say –
Bringing a worthy true story to the big screen, The Zookeeper's Wife is a polished production that has failed to bring the passion and heart the story deserved. With a misguided Chastain performance at the forefront and little support from the ensemble as a whole, Caro's film is a disappointment and one of the year's biggest wastes of potential.
2 food scrap bins out of 5
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