With the aid of a fellow Auschwitz survivor and a hand-written letter, an elderly man with dementia goes in search of the person responsible for the death of his family.
ActorsStarring: Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, Dean Norris, Henry Czerny, Bruno Ganz, Jürgen Prochnow, Kim Roberts, Peter DaCunha
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The movie opens with introducing Zev Guttman (Christopher Plummer). Zev’s wife Ruth has recently died of cancer, but since Zev suffers from dementia which manifests itself in the form of poor short term memory, he has to find this out time and again. He lives in a nursing home, where he and his friend Max Rosenbaum (Martin Landau) have made a pact. They are both holocaust survivors and since Max is too weak to leave the home, Zev will track down and kill the man they hold responsible for mudering both of their families in Auschwitz. This man is Rudy Kurlander.
I won’t analyse the story as doing so would undoubtedly include spoilers that would, well, spoil the movie; make sure you avoid any detailed reviews of this movie as this is one of those films best seen without knowing too much.
The movie is not perfect; there are various plot points that are a bit silly and some of the supporting cast aren’t great. But the core performances are strong. Plummer plays the fragile but determined Zev with a credible sensitivity and with various hints along the way consistent with his persona. Landau is solid as the sharp-minded Max, helping Zev carry out their pact, and making you wonder about his own intentions and history.
It is not a true story – it is really a film about revenge, justified by what we know about the holocaust which helps the viewer find empathy for Zev from the outset and all the way through his road trip looking for Kurlander. The build-up works well. The viewer lives in Zev’s reality. The pace leaves enough space for the viewer to ponder some moral questions about Zev’s plan. Is there a place for forgiveness after some 70 years? Can you hold one person responsible for what happened? Will killing that one person bring anyone any justice at this point in time? Is playing your own judge, jury and executioner morally better than what Kurlander did in Auschwitz?
Plummer is great throughout. The plot progresses slowly but steadily, remaining engaging throughout, with a subtly supporting score. And the finale will likely divide people: for some it will make the entire movie; for others it may wipe out the credibility of the Shoah angle of the movie up to the final act.
As it is a revenge thriller rather than trying to be a true story, I thought the ending was good.