Review: HBO Films’ The Survivor is a biographical drama about the Holocaust and boxer Harry Heft.

Ben Foster stars in The Survivor.Courtesy of HBO / Crave

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Directed by Barry Levinson

written by Justin Joel Gilmer

championship Ben Foster, Vicki Krebs, Billy Magnussen, Peter Sarsgaard, John Leguizamo

classification Unavailable ; 129 minutes

Opens April 27, streaming to CRIF

In the biographical drama survivor, an American journalist explaining the moral shades of gray of the guilt-ridden Polish-Jewish professional boxer and Auschwitz survivor played by Ben Foster. It’s Harry Heft. The movie is based on his memories.

“There is nothing black and white,” says journalist Peter Sarsgaard. “This is the sweet spot of the story – cracks in the common ground between good and evil, Nazism and Judaism.”

The journalist has a good story, and so does director Barry Levinson: Heft survives a German concentration camp by battling fellow prisoners in brutal bloodbaths to amuse Nazi officers. Battles usually end with the death of the loser. The full story is told in the book Harry Heft: Auschwitz survivor, challenger Rocky MarcianoWritten by his son.

Vicki Krebs and Ben Foster in The Survivor.Jessica Corconis / Courtesy of HBO / Crave

Heft did what he did to survive. “You had no choice,” he was repeatedly told to friends and family. Heft does not buy it, and he is not alone. In post-war Brooklyn, described by his Polish colleagues as a traitor, he spat in beer. Drink it anyway. Maybe he thinks it’s worth it.

One man’s beautiful spot is another man’s tormented no-man’s land.

survivor It is set in part in the year 1949, when Heft was a boxer in a losing streak in America. In between getting hit on $30, he tries to track down the love of his life, the Jewish girl who disappeared in the war. Part of his plan to find her is to fight the notorious Rocky Marciano. The publicist will get his name in the newspaper. Maybe you’ll see it, who knows?

Foster’s emotionally powerful portrayal of Heft is subtle and subtle. Heft, who tends to tantrums, is not easy to like. Foster is not trying to win us over.

Levinson is known to have directed a sports movie (natural) and a war movie (good morning vietnam). With this agonizing rugged story, We get a little of both. The film’s chronology is complex, with more flashbacks than a Grateful Dead reunion. Filmed in black and white, the horror scenes in the death camp are strikingly illustrated and with the aid of Hans Zimmer’s voice recording, they are rendered somberly. The stench and evil are almost felt.

Foster was about 40 years old survivor was shot. Having grown skinny to a horrific appearance in a concentration camp, he has advanced too old to be believed as a fighter. Makes his emaciation look like a corpse the mechanic’Christian Bale looks bloated by comparison.

Directed by Barry Levinson, The Survivor is based on a true story.Jessica Corconis / Courtesy of HBO / Crave

Billy Magnussen plays a handsome and somewhat sympathetic SS officer who haft as a death camp fighter. He is pragmatic about the Holocaust and the war. Heft makes it clear that he doesn’t hate the Jewish people, he simply chose the most capable team to come out victorious.

The relationship between the two is fascinating — “even a defeated dog loves its master,” says Haft.

Acting is very good all around, in particular ghost theme Actress Vicki Krebs as Haft’s long-suffering wife. John Leguizamo is a brave HFT coach. We got a few cheerful minutes from Danny DeVito as Charlie Goldman, who was Marciano’s coach.

The narrative thread involving Heft’s quest to find the girl who was taken from him during the Holocaust is emotional and does not pull things together. It’s a long movie, and the reward may not be enough for some. But as a moody tale of moral dilemmas and transcendence, survivor It lasts more than 128 minutes.

For consistency across all critics’ reviews, The Globe scrapped its movie and theater star rating system to align with coverage of music, books, visual arts, and dance. Instead, outstanding works will be noted with critics’ choice set across all coverage. (TV reviews, which are usually based on an incomplete season, are excluded.)

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