Starring: Ben Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Vicky Krieps, John Leguizamo, and Danny DeVito
Director: Barry Levinson
Structurally speaking, The Survivor is a mess. The non-linear storytelling throws the pacing and narrative momentum way off, while the third act feels like it was added from an entirely different movie. The echoes of Schindler’s List don’t make it a pleasant watch either, even as it sprinkles in some uplifting elements too. The film is just really disjointed, all around. That said, the perpetually underrated Ben Foster gives an excellent performance, maybe the best of his career, as both the emaciated Auschwitz prisoner and beefy professional boxer that was Harry Haft (complete with a Raging Bull-esque physical transformation). He deserves some recognition.
We rarely see the lives of Holocaust survivors on film, but The Survivor changes that. In an Oscar-worthy performance, Ben Foster portrays real-life survivor Harry Haft through multiple decades of his life. The horrors experienced by Haft are shot in black & white and give context to his post-Holocaust struggles in the United States. He’s a broken man, suffering from PTSD and unable to truly speak about it or move forward. The film can feel a bit long, but I think the back-and-forth between time periods helped maintain my interest. It’s a heavy film that hopefully will not be forgotten come awards season.