The Grey Zone

"Good"

The Grey Zone Review


A harrowing, soul-searching account of the Holocaust is presented from a very unique perspective in "The Grey Zone," which is based in part on diaries found buried at Auschwitz and the memoirs of Miklos Nyiszli, a Jew who served as the camp's doctor and aided the abominable Josef Mengele in his experiments on prisoners.

The story tells of a 1944 revolt by the "Sonderkommando," a squad of Jewish internees who chose to serve as wardens of the concentration camp's gas chambers and crematoriums in exchange for a few more months of comparatively privileged life. In exchange for their detestable duties, they got larger quarters, fresh bed linens, good food, cigarettes, and the right to loot the belongings of new arrivals.

The selfishness and cowardice of this choice tortures most of the characters in this film, none more so than Hoffman (David Arquette in a rare dramatic and anguished performance), whom we see early on herding naked throngs into the "showers," promising "The sooner you shower, the sooner you'll be reunited with your families." As the doors are closed, the camera slowly creeps in on Arquette, hearing the gas pipes rattle to life and the screams that come moments later.

The experiences the film brings to life include the Sonderkommandos' whitewashing of bloodied gas chambers walls, cutting the hair off dead bodies and pulling any gold teeth -- knowing they will face this fate themselves after four months of living in shameful servitude, but living nonetheless.

With the end of their four months looming, these apostate prisoners (including Steve Buscemi, Daniel Benzali and David Chandler) plan an attack in hopes of destroying the ovens in which the Nazis force them to burn hundreds of dead bodies every day, polluting the camp's sky with ominous, heavy grey soot continually belched from flaming crematorium chimneys.

Explosives and guns are smuggled in with the dead bodies of women enslaved as munitions factory workers on the other side of the camp (Mira Sorvino and Natasha Lyonne play conspirators later tortured), and complications arise in the form of a 14-year-old girl found alive underneath bodies in a gas chamber (who now must be hidden) and strife within the ranks of the insurgents (some would prefer to attempt escape).

But "The Grey Zone" isn't focused on the intricacies of this plot so much as the atoning perseverance found in the abjectly despondent hearts the of those attempting it.

Writer-director Tim Blake Nelson (director of the teenage "Othello" adaptation "O," and actor as dumb Delmer in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?") adapted "The Grey Zone" from his own stage play and makes the film compelling by designing it not to horrify, but to testify. He's not going for the sorrowful poetry of "Schindler's List" here. He lets the misery and genocide speak for themselves, without any musical score or graphic imagery, and it's all the more powerful for it. You hear screams, but you don't see torture. You don't see prisoners shot, you see the faces of those watching. "The Grey Zone" allows your imagination to do the work -- and boy does it ever.

Nelson doesn't draw any conclusions about lives saved or lost, and whether or not there is ultimately any meaning in the morals and the actions of these men (and the munitions factory women who helped them). This movie sends you home thinking.

A few of Nelson's narrative choices are cause for distraction. His dialogue is inexplicably modern, with characters swearing as if David Mamet wrote the script. And the use of accents is a curious matter. Even when characters are speaking different languages in the same scene, everyone speaks in American-accented English, except the Nazis (including Harvey Keitel in an abhorrent, callous but genuinely human performance), who speak English with a German accent. It's not hard to follow, but it is a hiccup in the otherwise enfolding fabric of the film.

The involvement of the aforementioned camp doctor (Allan Corduner) in the rebellion amounts to little more than hiding what he knew from his Nazi handlers and helping hide the teenage girl. But he appears throughout the movie as a reminder of and a witness to everything, including his own culpability in the deaths of thousands as a way to save himself, his wife and his daughter. But even his morality is ultimately up to the individual viewer to decide. After all, without his memoirs would this movie even exist?



The Grey Zone

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Friday 30th November 2001

Box Office USA: $0.2M

Distributed by: Lions Gate Films

Production compaines: The Goatsingers

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 26

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Hoffman, as Simon Schlermer, as 'Hesch' Abramowics, as SS-Oberscharfuhrer Eric Muhsfeldt, as Rosa, as Dina

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.