‘The Survivor’ scores as a middleweight Holocaust drama



Rated R. On HBO and HBO Max.

Grade: B

HBO Max Holocaust entry “The Survivor” tells the compelling story of Harry Haft aka Herzko Haft, a Polish Jew who survived Auschwitz by boxing fellow inmates for the amusement of Nazi navy personnel, who then executed the losers.

“The Survivor” boasts spectacular credentials. Its director is Academy Award-winner Barry Levinson (“Rain Man”). In the title position is Boston-born, indie-film common Ben Foster (“Hell or High Water”), who’s Jewish on his mom’s aspect and who misplaced a stunning quantity of weight to play Haft as an Auschwitz prisoner. Inevitable comparisons can be made between “The Survivor” and “Raging Bull” (1980), and there are occasions when Foster’s Haft appears to a distant cousin of Robert De Niro’s Italian-American Jake La Motta.

The story bangs backwards and forwards from Auschwitz to postwar Brooklyn and Georgia, and it’s stunning to see the distinction between Foster within the camps, the place he’s pores and skin and bones, and Foster postwar, the place he at first continues to battle and continues his campaign to search out Leah (Dar Zuzovsky), the lady he was in love with and with whom he was captured by the Nazis. After the warfare, Harry meets Emory Anderson (Peter Sarsgaard), an bold journalist who convinces Harry that by writing his story for the newspapers, Anderson will assist to search out Leah.

Vicky Krieps and Ben Foster star within the Holocaust drama “The Survivor.” (Photo courtesy HBO Max)

In the camps, Harry encounters SS Officer Dietrich Schneider (Billy Magnussen), a sports activities fanatic, who decides to function younger Harry’s coach and supervisor. In the course of his seek for Leah, Harry meets and befriends Jewish researcher Miriam Wofsoniker (Vicky Krieps, “Phantom Thread”), kindling a romance. In postwar scenes, Harry trains in Brooklyn with Pepe (John Leguizamo) and later is helped by coach Charlie Goodman (Danny DeVito) earlier than Haft’s large battle with rising light-heavyweight star Rocky Marciano aka The Brockton Blockbuster.

Foster, who’s a bit previous to play younger Harry in Auschwitz, delivers a typically highly effective, typically shaky efficiency as Haft, whose life story has spawned a graphic novel printed in Germany. The screenplay by Justine Juel Gillmer (TV’s “The Wheel of Time”) is simply too usually mired by histrionics, tropes and cliches. The postwar Harry loses it maybe too many occasions to maintain us engaged.

We hear the despicable Nazi viewers in Auschwitz chant, “Jewish beast,” at Harry and a Jewish cantor singing in postwar America. Later, “God Bless America” can be sung in Yiddish. Cinematographer George Steel (“Peaky Blinders”) shoots postwar scenes in coloration and scenes within the camps in “Schindler’s List”-like black-and-white.

SS Officer Schneider advises Harry that in life one is both “the hammer” or “the anvil.” “Take your choice.” I’ll be the fortune cookie. Scenes of a deeply troubled Harry making an attempt to bond together with his son Alan (Kingston Vernes) do not likely work. A rating by Academy Award-winner Hans Zimmer (“Rain Man,” “Dune”) provides one other layer of experience to a novel and largely well-told story that mixes Holocaust movie and boxing drama, however by no means fairly rises to the heights.

(“The Survivor” incorporates excessive violence, profanity and nudity.)

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