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Schindler's List

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Schindler's List

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rated: R
RunTime: 187 Minutes
Release Date: December 1993
Genres: Action, Drama, War, Classic

*Also starring: Tadeusz Huk, Ralph Fiennes, Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle, Embeth Davidtz, Malgoscha Gebel, Shmulik Levy, Mark Ivanir

Review by Brian Koller
4 stars out of 4

Universally acclaimed as one of the best films ever made, "Schindler's List" lives up to its reputation. Far different from director Steven Spielberg's previous films, "Schindler's List" is never manipulative or ponderous, and except for the stone-laying ceremony at film's end, bears its 197-minute length exceptionally well. Filmed in glorious black and white, and with outstanding direction and dialogue, the film is nearly perfect. Most surprising is the casting: no mega-stars appear in the film, particularly in the female roles. Casting is done to match the character, and not to increase box office receipts.

The film takes place in Germany-occupied Poland, during World War II. Polish Jews are forced to relocate from the countryside to the large cities, then packed into a walled-off ghetto, exploited as slave labor, and finally forced into concentration camps. The Jews lose first their property, then their freedom, then their lives. What is most chilling about the genocide is the ruthless efficiency in which it is performed: each person is continually placed onto one of two lists; one marked for immediate death, the other for death postponed. The significance of the film's title is that this list has an opposite purpose. It is a list to rescue its members from near-certain death.

While the plight of the Jews serves as the film's context, a German Gentile is its central character. Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is initially a conceited, manipulative womanizer, whose cynical goal is to make a fortune during the war using Jewish slave labor. His first employee is taciturn, brilliant accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), who sees Schindler's factory as an opportunity to save Jews from extinction in concentration camps. Stern's task is made more difficult by determined, murderous stormtroopers led by Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes). Schindler is slowly converted from capitalist to humanitarian, by film's end risking his life and giving up his fortune to save Jewish lives. Neeson's flexibility as an actor is impressive. His character is always evolving, yet always convincing. Although perhaps becoming too saintly: "Schindler's List" is a dramatization more than it is a documentary.

"Schindler's List" won seven Academy Awards, including those for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography (Janusz Kaminski), Best Film Editing (Michael Kahn), Best Score (credited to John Williams, but featuring violinist Itzhak Perlman), Best adapted screenplay (Steven Zaillian). Neeson and Fiennes were nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively.

Copyright 1995 Brian Koller

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