Many films have catalogued the personal and miraculous experiences of those who’ve survived the holocaust. Add this heart-warming movie to that canon of movies that have shed light on the people who escaped from a massive genocide.
In the 1980s, Nicholas Winton (Sir Anthony Hopkins), an elderly British man, cleans out a drawer in his home office and rediscovers a valise of papers that triggers memories. Back in 1938, as a British stockbroker on a trip to Prague, Czechoslovakia, he became so alarmed about the plight of Jewish children who faced the Nazi’s annihilation that he created an escape route for them using trains. An above-ground railroad network.
This based-on-true-events story sells itself. Grave dilemma. Hero. Solution. Survivors. Television director James Hawes creates his first feature film with top-notch screenwriters Lucinda Coxon and Nick Drake. Larger-than-life characters save the most vulnerable. The actors who portray them do so with great dignity: Hopkins, John Flynn, Lena Olin, Helena Bonham Carter, Jonathan Pryce. You’re pulled into the protagonists’ feverish plans that stood little chance of succeeding but did.
The cinematography (Zac Nicholson) and music (Volker Bertelmann, Oscar® winner for All Quiet on the Western Front) are superb. Horrific glimpses of pre-WWII Europe on the edge are sobering. While sequences from the ‘80s, when the senior Winton has an out-of-body experience, are formidable in an entirely different way. It all works fine within the confines of what a BBC TV production can be, versus a big budget movie. Considering those limitations, the creative team does well.
At a TV station the culmination and magnitude of Winton’s deeds confront him. That’s the money shot. The moment audiences will remember when the specifics of his heroics become a blur.
Sometimes the facts and figures of a bio/history film are the production’s legacy. This time, the emotions adult audiences feel is what will be remembered forever.