WALKING WITH THE ENEMY – Review by Susan Granger
The horrors of the Holocaust are recalled in this “inspired by a true story” about Pinchas Tibor Rosenbaum, who rescued thousands of Hungarian Jews during the final months of World War II by impersonating a German officer. The fictitious character based on Rosenbaum is called Ekel Cohen (Jonas Armstrong). In 1944, he’s a young, displaced Hungarian Jew, a rabbi’s son who is trying to find his family after escaping from a bombed labor camp. Read on…
Making his way to Budapest, which at that time was occupied by SS soldiers and members of a fascist, anti-Semitic, paramilitary extremist group called the Arrow Cross Party, Ekel joins a Resistance group near the Glass House, where a Swiss diplomat (William Hope) forges papers to help doomed Jews escape. When Ekel’s girl-friend Hannah (Hannah Tointon) is nearly raped in front of her family by two Nazi soldiers, he steals a uniform off one of the dead soldiers. To his amazement, Ekel discovers that simply by wearing the garb of a Gestapo officer and authoritatively shouting orders, he is able to redirect many of his countrymen who would have been en route to death-camps. Meanwhile, Hungary’s controversial regent, Miklos Horthy (Sir Ben Kingsley), is trying in vain to negotiate an armistice with Russia.
Unfortunately in their screen adaptation, writer Kenny Golde and director Mark Schmidt laboriously re-hash so many clichéd phrases and concepts that the inspirational effect of Ekel’s Aryan impersonation is diluted. As a result, what was brutal and compelling simply becomes maudlin melodrama.
Irish-born British actor Jonas Armstrong is perhaps best known for playing the title role in “Robin Hood” on the BBC, and he will soon be seen in “Edge of Tomorrow” with Tom Cruise. And if this period in 20th century history interests you, I highly recommend Agnieszka Holland’s “Europa Europa” (1990), also about a Jewish boy who pretended to be a part of Hitler’s Youth movement.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Walking With the Enemy” is a stirring 6 – but it’s a heavy-handed depiction of heroism.