Review by Dan Skip Allen
Julian Fellowes has a knack for making English aristocrats and their servants compelling, dramatic, and interesting. Gosford Park was his first foray into this world. Later he created the smash hit show for PBS, Downton Abbey, which had six seasons of the Crawley family and their servants. That show spawned a film in 2019 based on the exploits of this same family. Fans couldn't get enough of this upper-class family and their downstairs employees because a new Downton Abbey film is coming to cinemas, and it's a new era for the Crawley family.
When we pick up the Crawley family in Downton Abbey: A New Era, they are struggling to transition into the 1930s. When a lawyer shows up with a reading of a will, he lets them know the Dowager (Maggie Smith) of the family has inherited a villa in the south of France. Almost simultaneously, a letter comes from British Lion, a film company, asking them if they could use Downton as the location for their new film. As you can imagine, these new flashes throw Downton into turmoil. Some are happier than others about all of this news, though.
Onboard for this installment of Downton Abbey is Simon Curtis. He's no stranger to serialized television shows, having worked on Cranford and David Copperfield. He also has directed his fair share of films, so he's the perfect director to tackle this upstairs-downstairs world that fellows have created. He does a great job directing the serious moments as well as the more comedic moments. This film has a balance of both that will make the viewers watching laugh and cry. His leadership direction of this world is impeccable, and it shows why he was chosen to direct this second installment in the franchise.
One of the great things about Downton Abbey is the characters. The arcs that they're in have to be compelling and engaging. And how this cast brings those stories to life is the key. Robert Crawley, The Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), may have uncovered a secret about his family. Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) stays back home working with the film crew and may have found a hidden talent she didn't know she had. The now-retired head butler, Charles Carson (Jim Carter), may be worried he's a man of the past as the Crawley family moves into the future. There are a few other subplots in this film, but I could talk about this incredible cast all day. As per usual, they are all fantastic in this sequel film.
The title of this film is pretty prophetic because this film really does create a new era for this family. Like the series and film before this, the new film tackles subjects that can only make life more stressful and demanding. The upstairs-downstairs world that this family and their servants inhabit has moved forward. They have become a part of a world outside them that they only knew a bit of, but they have now fully embraced. Technology has played a huge part in that as well as getting away from the home they love so much. Downton Abbey: A New Era is the most logical place the film and franchise could go. If it's the end of the franchise, it has ended perfectly. I couldn't have imagined a better conclusion to this amazing, intriguing, dramatic world Julian Fellowes has created.
Downton Abbey: A New Era hits theaters on May 20.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Montana Story was a festival darling when it debuted back at TIFF 2021. It's another neo-Western set, as the title suggests, in Montana. This genre is usually a good one, and Montana Story takes homage from other modern-day westerns and gives them a spin of its own that isn't normal for this genre.
Two siblings (Owen Teague and Haley Lu Richardson) are estranged. They had separated years before due to physical abuse from their father. They have to come back home from New York and Wyoming to care for their ailing father. Throw in an African caregiver and a Native American maid/caretaker, and you have a pretty depressing family drama.
We've all had ailing relatives in our lives, and they can be a bit of a problem for those having to take care of them, whether it's a financial problem or a time issue. It's not easy for family members to get away from their busy lives and go worry about a sick relative. If you were close to them, maybe it wouldn't be such a burden, but it's not an easy task for these two siblings to come back to look after this bad man
When a family member is sick, their estate also has to be dealt with, and sometimes that's not easy. In this case, the family lived on a sprawling ranch in Montana. There are some vehicles and animals that have to be dealt with, in addition to his debts and all of the property. That's the bulk of this film. It's pretty mundane, to be honest.
The actors in the film, with Richardson being the most famous, make the most of this script. They use everything they have in their acting repertoire to try to make this story engaging and interesting. I just found the story boring and plotting, and it dragged along even when they had to go on a road trip in the middle of the film. I didn't care that much about these two people.
Montana Story is a film that may have played well at a film festival last year, but it just doesn't play well in this sphere we live in today coming out of the COVID pandemic. I don't think people want to be reminded of a sick relative right now. We've all felt this illness a lot and all its permutations over the last two and half years. The cast and directors do the best job they can to try to make this film interesting, but it's just boring and plotting and drags along. Bleecker Street bought another film with no soul, and it isn't very good.
Montana Story hits theaters on May 13.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Going back to The Time Machine in 1960, based on the H.G. Wells book, time travel has been a popular topic with writers and film and television creators. Time travel has always been fun to play around with. There have been a lot of different types of time travel projects, and they sometimes can be convoluted or contrived. They tend to have a lot of moving parts in them. The Time Traveler's Wife is based on the 2003 novel of the same name, already adapted to a film in 2009. It is a much more in-depth look at this genre than its predecessor.
The HBO series focuses mainly on two characters: Henry (Theo James, the Divergent trilogy) and Claire (Rose Leslie, Game of Thrones). They have many incarnations throughout the series. Sometimes there are multiple versions of Henry in a given scene. Throughout the series, we see the Claire character grow up from a six-year-old to an older woman. Henry has multiple versions that travel back and forth between the various age ranges of Claire. This series is just a fancy way to do a romantic show. It works better than the film in this way.
The series has a few things that keep it grounded and interesting. Each episode of the show has a different version of James and Leslie's characters, who narrate the show as talking heads like in a documentary. This is a very grounding aspect because the show can get confusing at times. When there are various versions of the James character on screen, things can get confusing. The dialogue can get a bit complicated as well. Having multiple characters speak to him at different periods in his life can be a bit much for the viewers watching at home. This show doesn't pull its punches dealing with all aspects of time travel or romance.
All the things you'd think would come up in a time travel show do come up in this show. The dos and don'ts of time travel are more extensive than you'd think. The show tackles all of these things with a very nice touch, even though some things aren't easy to discuss in the context of the show. Of course, having characters try to get benefits from James's character's ability is pretty common sense. Stock tips seem too obvious to give in these types of films and shows. Netflix might not be a great stock to invest in right now, though. They are dealing with their fair share of problems.
The Time Traveler's Wife is about James's wife, played by Leslie. It deals with her character from a six-year-old to an older woman. The time-traveling James is just a means to an end for the showrunners and writers. The show is more interested in how she deals with this man in her various lives. Leslie is a good actress and emotes nicely on the screen. Having James as her opposite brings out her talents as an actress. He could bring out any actress's talents, though. He is a good actor in his own right, with various traits that make him engaging and compelling as an actor. He's been in many things, but this might be the thing that allows him to stretch his abilities as an actor and gives him the most range.
HBO has had its fair share of great shows in the past. The Time Traveler's Wife isn't quite as good as some of their recent hits, but it has a lot to say about relationships and how people find love and keep that love over a long time. The showrunners and writers use the time travel aspects to do a great job of explaining who these people really are. Things fit together very well, considering all the various moving parts this show has. It's not trying to be anything great, but it's better than I thought it would be.
The Time Traveler's Wife debuts on HBO on May 15. All six episodes reviewed.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER -- A Very Good Adaption of Michael Connelly's Book... Except for One Glaring Problem
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Michael Connelly has created quite the literary empire for himself these days with four different ongoing book series. One of the biggest is The Lincoln Lawyer. If this sounds familiar, it probably is. The Lincoln Lawyer was already turned into a film in 2011, starring Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller. I love that film and the character and Connelly's books, so I was a bit skeptical about the new series. It was initially supposed to be on CBS before the pandemic got the pilot — and the show — canceled and landed on Netflix.
When the series picks up, Mickey Haller (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) sits on a beach with a surfboard, too afraid to go in the water. He had gotten into an accident over a year prior and still can't overcome the obstacle of returning to the water. He has also been out of the practice of being a lawyer since the accident. Out of the blue, he gets a mysterious phone call to come to the chambers of a high-ranking judge in the L.A. county judicial system. She informs him that a lawyer friend of his was killed, and in his will, left Mickey his entire law practice and all of his clients. This is quite the surprise for Mickey, who hasn't practiced law in over a year.
Along with the practice comes a high-priority case involving the murder of a woman and her lover by the woman's husband, a millionaire game developer. This case is of the utmost concern to the client, who wants to go to court and clear his good name of these heinous crimes. Mickey has to get his feet under him first, though. He needs to get the lay of the land. That means bringing his second wife into the fold along with her boyfriend, a trusty investigator for Mickey. The last piece of the puzzle to get things in order is a diver for his trademark Lincolns that he drives/rides in to do a lot of his work.
One of his cases is a burglary of a woman's necklace. He jumps in with both feet, and he helps to clear the name of a young Black woman accused of the crime due to circumstantial evidence. As a method of payment, he offers the woman a job as his driver. She accepts, and now the show has its main characters.
This show is a solid law procedural that shows the ins and outs of how lawyers, judges, and the whole legal system works. Like Connelly's other properties that have been adapted into films or television shows, The Lincoln Lawyer has a great grasp of this entire world. With David E. Kelly involved as executive producer, it makes sense. He has a lot of experience with law shows. His work on L.A. Law and Ally McBeal is some of the best dramatic work involving this genre in television history. He works well with Connelly's L.A.-based lawyer. They both know this city and the world it exists in.
A thing about this show that has thrown me off is that I believe that Mickey Haller has been miscast. The writers shoehorned in a subplot involving Haller's father marrying a Mexican woman before leaving him and returning to Mexico. Later, Mickey returns to L.A. and goes to law school to take after his father. This completely changes the nature of the character. For example, James Bond is a character where race isn't necessary for people to know who and what this character is all about. He has to be suave and debonair and a ladies' man. In contrast, Mickey Haller is definitely an Irish American caucasian man. He isn't Latino in the books, and there is a big difference between these two and how integral this is to who he is as a character. You can't change that, in my opinion.
In the books, Mickey Haller's Irish roots from his father seem to come to the forefront. He drinks excessively and has a slick way with words that allows him to be a lady's man and eloquently express his arguments in court. He's charmingly flawed, in a way. The portrayal in the show wouldn't allow for that. Matthew McConaughey was closer to who and what this character is about from the books. Sure any literary character is up for interpretation, but this character is clear about who he is and what he represents. Focusing on an entirely different backstory changes the nature of the character completely.
That being said, the cast is otherwise very good. These actors embody what I envisioned them to be from reading The Brass Verdict, on which this story is based. The twists and turns that this season has had have been fantastic. Even having read the book and knowing the twists, I was surprised by some of them. Connelly knows how to shock readers with all kinds of great plot twists. The showrunner, Ted Humphrey, captured the essence of what this book was trying to say and pretty much nailed it. Once again, L.A. is fantastically filmed and set as the backdrop of this series. Like Bosch, the show uses L.A. to perfection. It's a great city to set these kinds of shows in. The music in the series was also great.
The Lincoln Lawyer faithfully adapts Connelly's book with only a few necessary changes due to character rights. Kelly, Humphrey, and others fully embrace this world in which the show takes place, and it is fully realized. The cast of actors for the show has been chosen well, all except one. This show is on the same level as other shows about legal proceedings. It gets the whole world it's depicting. The main character of Mickey Haller has traits and mannerisms that make him who he is, and changing his culture did not work. That's the one failing moment for me with this show. As a big fan of the character and the books, I couldn't get past that.
The Lincoln Lawyer streams on Netflix beginning May 13. All ten episodes reviewed.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Several WWII films have been made in recent years. Filmmakers with various visions have come out of the woodwork with their take on stories and experiences from one of the worst conflicts in human history. This film, Operation Mincemeat, tells what is arguably the greatest story in WWII that no one has ever heard about.
A group of British Naval officers, Army officers, politicians, and civilians get together to deceive the Nazi regime by planting seeds of a fake attack on Greece when they are actually making a last-ditch effort to attack Sicily instead. This is a life and death mission that could save thousands of lives. That is the mission of these men and women.
The Twenty Committee is a secret group in charge of covert activities during wartime. They were essentially spies during WWII in 1943. The Allies work together to try to deceive the German industrial complex, at this time in history, an absolute juggernaut taking over country after country and killing millions of Jews and other men and women. John Madden goes full bore into this story and WWII like I've rarely seen before.
Madden assembled an all-star cast for this film. Taking the lead is Academy Award-winning actor Colin Firth (The King's Speech). He plays a Naval officer, Ewan Montagu, who loves his country and will do whatever it takes to keep this secret mission under wraps. Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice, Succession) plays Charles Cholmondeley, a French officer with equal loyalties to his country and hate for the Germans. Kelly Macdonald plays a widower who, by chance, gets involved in this scheme and loves every minute of it — even a love triangle she finds herself in. Johnny Flynn plays the famous spy novelist Ian Fleming. He is the narrator of the story as well as a literary documentarian. He keeps notes of all the goings-on in this story that were not released for decades later. Jason Issacs plays Admiral John Godfrey. He is skeptical of the plan but reluctantly goes along with it at various points of its inception. And Simon Russell Beale plays British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He knows what this plan means for the Allies and their survival. If these plans they've set forward get into the wrong hands, thousands of men and women could die at the hands of the Nazis. This cast is phenomenal from top to bottom. Even the head of the secretarial staff is a great actress from Downton Abbey, Penelope Wilton.
With any WWII film, the production value and set production are critical aspects of how a film looks. With John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) at the helm as director, you know this film is going to look and feel very authentic to this period. The costumes and hair designs had to be spot on, or it wouldn't look right. The set decoration had to be of the time as well. Everything looked great!
This film is one of the best I've watched in 2022. It takes a tried and true genre and infuses it with intrigue. War and spy films have been together before, but not this well. Add in the specific period during which they need to look and sound the part, and you have an all-time fantastic spy film set in WWII. The cast and direction are very good, and John Madden and Netflix have a big hit on their hands.
Operation Mincemeat hits Netflix on May 11.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
The horror genre has been around for many decades. This genre has had a lot of variations with it during that period. The horror genre has kept being relevant because it has so many filmmakers that create original visions and fresh takes on horror. Escape the Field is another horror film with a unique spin on familiar ideas. This take on the genre was very interesting and had me intrigued throughout this nail-biting thriller.
The premise is that six people, three women and three men, wake up in a field with six different items. The items consist of a revolver with one bullet, a sleeve of matches, a knife, a lantern, a compass, and a water flask. These six items help the six individuals in their journey to escape the field. As they are trying to figure out how to escape the cornfield, they realize something or someone is hunting them. They are in a race to survive or die.
This film had some excellent camera work that kept the characters in focus but kept the viewer wondering what was happening. The lighting was good as well. The film could have been dark and confusing for those watching, but the film was easy to follow because of the strong lighting. The characters were also very engaging. The visuals, as in the blood and so forth, looked pretty cool. This genre had to have all of these things go right.
The cast is full of relative nobodies, except for a couple of actors who have been in a few things in their careers. Theo Rossi (Luke Cage, Army of the Dead) is pretty cool as a man who helps a doctor. They work well together. Jordan Claire-Robbins hasn't been in as many things as Rossi, but she leads this film. They both are thrust into the forefront of the story, and the film is better for that.
This film could keep an audience interested for the hour and a half runtime. It isn't very long, which is a good thing. The film has some exciting twists and mysteries for the characters to uncover, which the viewers watching can play along with, similar to Escape Room or its sequel. As far as groundbreaking horror films go, this one isn't that, but it's not awful either. It might be a good date night movie for couples looking for a mindless way to pass the time.
Escape the Field hits theaters and VOD on May 6.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
When we last saw Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver), he had enough with the politics of the LAPD and quit the force to go on his own as a private investigator. Honey Chandler (Mimi Rogers) was recovering from her gunshot wounds. Madi Bosch (Madison Lintz) wanted to make a difference as her father did, so she became an LAPD police officer herself. Bosch: Legacy picks up after the pandemic. The showrunners use it as a plot device for the show so that those watching know it happened in real-time.
The characters of the show pick up subplots from season seven of Bosch. A hitman who killed a handful of people and shot Rogers's character is on trial. A hung jury throws the case out, which means Harry and company must figure another way to convict him. With his trusty tech guy, Maurice "Mo" Massi (Stephen Chang), he must investigate other avenues to bring him to justice. Bosch's daughter isn't having it easy as a boot — a recruit right out of the Academy. A new partner gives her a new lease on life, but she might be getting in over her head as a rape victim haunts her.
Rogers's character has her hand in a few pies as well. Along with helping Harry with his investigation, she brings a few new cases into the new law firm she works for. She has to deal with a possible police shooting gone wrong and her own demons involving getting shot back in season seven of Bosch. She is still as shrewd as ever, though, making deals left and right to get her way even if snitches get killed because of it. She doesn't like to lose, no matter who she has to bring down to get the win. This might bring her to odds with Harry as well.
Bosch: Legacy is a more hard-hitting show than Bosch was. Sometimes, it uses vulgar language, which makes the show more authentic in its portrayal of the characters. Some pretty violent shootings and stabbings have the blood flowing throughout the show. Bosch was a great look at the LAPD, but Bosch: Legacy shows a seedier side of Los Angeles. The new show even brings back characters from the old show to ensure audiences know that the two shows are still connected. This show is a bit different in other ways, though.
Harry loses his house with the perfect view of Los Angeles early on in the show, so he has to live out of his office instead. The show has a different vibe than Bosch did. The opening credits are in a different style, though the new show still uses the signature blues and jazz music Bosch has come to be known for. He leans in on his tech guy in the new show quite a bit. He doesn't use all the different departments of the LAPD anymore. That doesn't stop him from getting in the local PD detectives' crosshairs in his investigations. Harry has to watch his step like always because he is in over his head with so many irons in the fire. And so many people out for his head.
Bosch: Legacy is the perfect follow-up to Bosch. It takes what made the original a great police drama and uses it to help create a new vision and harder-edged show without the restraints of Prime Video. The vulgar language and bloody violence make the show a more realistic portrayal of Los Angeles crime and the corruption that goes along with it. Eric Overmeyer and the rest of the showrunners, writers — Michael Connelly, the creator of the character, among them — and the producers create an entirely new vision without having to answer to anybody. They can tell the stories from the books better this way. I loved Bosch, but after one season of Bosch: Legacy, I may be inclined to like this show more.
Bosch: Legacy streams on Amazon Freevee beginning May 6. All ten episodes reviewed.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Shudder Originals have been around for a little while now. They and a few other studios like Neon, A24, and Blumhouse have brought the horror genre back into the public consciousness. They bring out a few films every year that are a pleasant surprise in this genre. The Twin is the latest film from them that is worth seeing by the masses.
A couple is on a road trip and gets into a car accident. They have two twin sons, Nathan & Elliot. These two brothers have a very close connection, as twins usually do. After the accident, the couple and their remaining son move to a new home to get away from their past. However, their new home and town have some strange happenings.
The Twin falls back on a lot of horror movie tropes. It relies on jump scares and twists to get the viewer invested in the film and its characters. Besides the title character, the movie's primary focus is on the mother of the children (Teresa Palmer, Lights Out, Warm Bodies). She is the heart and soul of the film. We, as the viewers, are totally connected to her story and her plight.
Any mother would be distraught by losing a child and become protective of their other children. This woman goes to the next level to protect her remaining son. As a twin myself, we are tied inexplicably to our siblings. My brother and I were super close as kids. We did everything together. It's like losing a limb as a child who has a twin brother or sister. This film doubles down on the emotions of the mother and remaining son. It's a good film about maternal instincts and connection.
The horror aspects are strong as well. The director, Taneli Mustonen, is a Finish filmmaker, and he uses some solid camera work and cinematography to depict the world of these characters and their home. The film has a darker tone but works very well for what this film is trying to do. It has a lot of greys and darkness, setting the atmosphere.
The Twin hit home for me because I am a twin myself. The motherly instincts and maternal aspects of the film were very interesting. Teresa Palmer led this film in those regards. The horror aspects were decent as well. It's hard for filmmakers to get away from popular horror movie tropes. This director did the best he could with the material he had to work with. Shudder brings some new originals every year, some are good, and some aren't. This one was worth the watch.
The Twin hits theaters, VOD, and Shudder on May 6.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
The Godfather is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time by critics and fans alike. It brought people into a world of crime and Italian society never before seen on the big screen. However, the film based on Mario Puzo's novel almost never happened. The Offer is the show by Paramount+ about how this masterpiece of cinema came to be, and it's quite a sordid tale.
The show focuses on a handful of main characters and some other supporting characters. Albert S. Ruddy (Miles Teller) is working at the Rand Corporation, a government-subsidized think tank, when he decides to get into television and later the film industry. He hooks his wagon to Paramount studio head at the time, Robert Evans (Matthew Goode). Evans is the producer of the big hit Love Story based on a worldwide best-seller. Paramount wants to repeat this success, so they option the next big hit best-seller, The Godfather by Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo). Evans puts Ruddy in charge of this project. It's his first film project — fraught with turmoil from the beginning. From budget concerns to casting issues, this film was doomed from the start. But these men and women wouldn't let that happen.
Dexter Fletcher is a well-known director of Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Eddie the Eagle. He had quite the undertaking trying to adapt Ruddy's book. This story is too good to be true sometimes. Just when you thought nothing else could go wrong with this production, something does. Anything and everything was thrown in his way while trying to make this film. It's a miracle that the film turned out as great as it did, considering everything that happened behind the scenes. The show delves into all the various people besides Ruddy and Evans that played a part in this film. Like any film production, the people involved are numerous, from company executives to an ex-boyfriend of Ruddy's secretary who played Carlo in the film. The cast is pretty extensive.
Director Francis Ford Coppola is played by Dan Fogler (Fantastic Beasts), who is the spitting image of Coppola. He gets his facial tics and hand gestures down to a tee. Burn Gorman plays Charles Bluhdorn, the owner and CEO of Gulf-Western. He had a love-hate relationship with Ruddy and Evans, and despite his better judgment, he kept supporting these two men and their film. Colin Hanks is Barry Lapidus, who is different from the CEO. He held a tight leash on the men involved in the production and a tight purse. He was not a fan of the film or the men involved in making it. Juno Temple plays Bettye McCartt, who wasn't just a secretary, but a do-it-all woman and a savior to Ruddy and Bluhdorn at various times in the lead-up and production of The Godfather. These actors were all fantastic in their various roles in the show. They are just the tip of the iceberg, though
The heart and soul of this series are Teller as Ruddy and Goode as Evans. These two single-handedly drove every episode and this entire story forward. They were the reason to watch this show. From their personal lives outside of the filmmaking production to various things that they had to do to keep this train on the tracks, these two actors were terrific. They both had their ups and downs as the characters, but they never let me down as a viewer watching them. They both should be up for Emmys playing these two men going through hell and back on this film and in general. They had to sell their souls to get this film made, and it was all in vivid color for us to watch. These might be the best performances of their careers.
When you're making a show about a specific period, such as the early '70s, you need to make things look realistic to that time and place in history. Fletcher, Nikki Toscano, and many others made me feel like I went back to this period in history. Hollywood was in a rough patch in the '70s, but films like The Godfather helped bring it out of those hard times. The clothes, the hairstyles, the cars, the set direction, and the production value were all spot on. These people made this show look as authentic as possible, even as far as remaking and reimagining scenes from the film. Various scenes of Good on Willis and Coppola arguing about lighting were priceless for me while watching the show. Even getting the actors to sound like their counterparts were pretty amazing. The kid who played Al Pacino was uncanny.
The story is based on Ruddy"s experiences, so no one except those involved knew what really happened in some of those rooms. In some cases, dark dungeons where men were threatened because they didn't go along with the film production. That's where Joe Columbo, a real-life New York gangster (Giovanni Ribisi), comes into the picture. This show depicts the relationship between Ruddy, Columbo, New York Senators, and the Italian mob. These were real as far as Ruddy's recollections are concerned. Even Frank Sinatra played a part in this story, and not a good part. This show has it all, and it's stranger than fiction because it's authentic to what Ruddy had to say. After watching the show, who am I to disagree with him? However, Peter Bart (Josh Zuckerman) might have other things to say about it.
The Offer is the (mostly) real depiction of how one of the greatest films of all time got made. It has so many outstanding performances from Teller, Goode, Fogler, Temple, Ribisi, and many others. The craft departments such as hair and makeup, costumes, set decoration, production value, and overall camera work made this time come to life once again. Dexter Fletcher, Nikki Toscano, and the writers brought Ruddy's story, real or fake, to life. As a huge fan of The Godfather, it was a pleasure to see this story come to life. No movie ever had an easy road getting made. This is just one man's story among many involved but is a fantastic story of pain, loyalty, death, loving, satisfaction, and success. I loved every last minute of it.
The Offer debuts on Paramount+ on April 28, with new episodes streaming subsequent Thursdays. All ten episodes reviewed.
Review by Dan Skip Allen
Films about the Holocaust and WWII and sports films are two powerful genres. But to make a sports film with Holocaust/WWII elements is quite an achievement. Add in the legendary director of Rain Man, Barry Levinson, and two-time Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer, and The Survivor was going to be a must-see.
Harry Haft (Ben Foster) is a survivor of the Holocaust. He spent many years at Auschwitz and Birkenau, the two worst concentration camps of the Third Reich. Years later, he uses the boxing skills he acquired at the camps to make a living and try to reach out to a long-lost friend.
The film takes place in two different eras. One era, the '50s, is filmed in color, and the other, the '40s, is filmed in black and white. Both periods the film deals with are done exquisitely by legendary filmmaker Barry Levinson. It's very clear he put a lot of thought and effort into adapting the book from Haft's son. The black and white scenes at the concentration camps are very bloody and brutal. The Jews are all thin and malnourished. Add in the fighting scenes, and you can tell this was not easy for the people or the actors who had to play these characters in this era. The '50s had fantastic production design, costumes, hair, and make-up. The cinematography in both eras was phenomenal.
The skill Haft got while he was at Auschwitz was boxing. It was a survival instinct at the time, but later on, it became a profession. He fought fellow Jews who were forced to fight each other for the entertainment of the Germans. In particular, one Nazi (Billy Magnussen) took him under his wing and tried to train him to make him a fighting machine. This paid off later because when he came to the United States, he became a professional boxer, fighting the likes of Rocky Marciano in his career. This was a fascinating story because I had never heard of Haft before seeing this film
Ben Foster has had an interesting career. His breakout role in 3:10 to Yuma opened everybody's eyes to what kinds of performances he's capable of. He followed that up with Leave No Trace a few years later. Now he's playing a boxer who was a holocaust survivor, and he has to look completely different for both eras the film takes place in and use an eastern European accent. Foster will surely garner a lot of awards talk for this incredible turn.
The supporting actors in the film were also very good and entertaining. John Leguizamo and Danny Devito play different boxing trainers from two different camps. They bring a sense of humor to an otherwise very serious film and story. Two more great supporting cast members are Vicky Krieps, a woman in immigration trying to help Haft find an old acquaintance, and Peter Sarsgaard as a reporter trying to help Haft get his story out to the public. All these superb supporting actors complement Foster very well. All great films need a great cast, and this one has it in spades.
The Survivor premiered in September back at TIFF 2021 to wide acclaim. It's finally coming out in April in the United States on HBO. They have an absolute winner on their hands. This man was a very complex individual, and Foster plays that up to a tee in the film. His ability to play one character with many facets should is commendable. He will surely be up for Emmys, SAGs, and Golden Globes when those award shows come back around. The crafts, especially the cinematography by George Steel and the production design, are both amazing. The score by Hans Zimmer is also great. This film is incredible by anybody's standards.
The Survivor debuts on HBO on April 27 at 8pm ET/PT.