Director: Niki Caro
I actually had no idea this was directed by Niki Caro, or, admittedly failing to recognise her name (apologies Ms. Caro) as being the same person who directed Whale Rider. A film I'm very fond of for several reasons. An emotional family drama that I have always held in high regard. Though this film, whilst still being very emotional, it's a very different picture for obvious reasons.
Based on Diane Ackerman's 2007 titular novel that's based on a true story about the Zabinski family, who tended to the Warsaw Zoo prior, during and after WWII. Her primary source being Antonina Zabinski's unpublished diary. The book won the Orion Book Award in 2008 and was placed 13th on New York Times' non-fiction bestsellers list.
It's an incredible story of not just Antonina, but of her family, her husband Jan and their young son Ryszard who courageously saved the lives of 300 Jews from the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation of WWII by hiding them within the city's zoo.
Chastain takes the lead role as Antonina giving a powerful and emotional performance with polish accent to boot. But it's Heldenbergh's acting as the husband that impressed me the most, possibly because I felt there was more to his character. Like Haas' part, the story afforded them more of a dynamic, especially the emotional torment they encounter.
The only slight downside with the casting and it's not actually the performance itself, but there's a danger of Brühl being typecast as always being nasty Eastern European of some sort. This being the third time in recent years playing a bad German with Inglorious Basterds and Captain America: Civil War. It's making me lose focus on my favourite role of his, playing Niki Lauda in Rush.
Harry Gregson-Williams does a fine score that doesn't necessarily suit the tone of the film but creates the right tension and emotional content for the story. Whilst serves its purpose, there isn't really any tracks that stand out or be recognisable.
Caro and production crew do an amazing job of recreating the harshness and the poverty, and she really brings it home, myself not been impacted by such a film since Schindler's List. It's a grand testament to those great and good people of the time at did the right and humane thing and gladly this is what the film focuses on.
Powerful, emotional and strong performances. Made all more that credibly by being based on true events. A must-see.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 8
Job Description: 8
The Extra Bonus Point: 0
Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Yes.