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Survivor Review: Wins a Divided Screen Decision | Summary | Is the Survivor a True Story?

Survivor Review

Survivor Review: “The Survivor,” directed by Barry Levinson, begins with a recognizable and understandable character.

Not with story twists, but with biographical drama.

We know the character’s troubles and where the story is going, but it keeps complicating and deepening every interaction and situation.

Harry Haft

Played by Ben Foster, survived the Holocaust by fighting fellow inmates to the death in front of the camp’s Nazi leaders who wagered on the outcome.

Survivor Review

Dietrich Schneider, a Nazi officer, was Haft’s champion (Billy Magnussen).

Who decided to manage Harry after seeing him beat another cop for threatening another convict.

Normally, such an act would have resulted in death, but Schnieder saw Harry as an opportunity to gain money and separate from the other cops.

This is the year Harry is prepped to fight heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano (Anthony Molinari).

whose opponents compared fighting him to fighting an airplane propeller.

Survivor Review: Is It a Sports Film?

However, while the foregoing makes “The Survivor” sound like a sports film with a hint of Holocaust melancholy, it is not (and it is that).

Survivor Review

What Levinson and screenwriter Justine Juel Gillmer have created is a psychological drama in which the focus is always on how events felt and what they signified in a bigger sense, rather than solely on what will happen next.

Levinson made his Hollywood debut with the low-budget drama “Diner,” and he never completely abandoned the “a bunch of guys suspended out and talking” impulse, whether in the capitalism satire “Tin Men,” the family memoir “Avalon,” or the gangster film “Bugsy,” starring Warren Beatty as a vicious Jewish gangster who founded Las Vegas.

Another work in this style is “The Survivor,” which is surprisingly buoyant and often unexpected.

Character and dialogue are always prioritized over the need to move the plot along to the next big event.

Harry has numerous opportunities to interact with the supporting cast in Gillmer’s writing.

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This is made up entirely of professionals who are so outstanding at what they do that seeing them makes you smile. And none of their characters turn out to be the strictly functional cardboard cutouts that you might expect.

Miriam Wofsoniker

Played by Vicky Krieps, works for an organization that helps survivors locate loved ones who went missing during the war but are believed to still be alive.

You assume the film is positioning a love tale in which a man who is dead within comes back to life when Harry shows up searching for aid in finding his wife, whose disappearance obsesses him.

However, this is not the case. Pepe (John Leguizamo) and Louis Barclay (Paul Bates) are introduced as two of Harry’s trainers, and Danny DeVito (Charlie Goldman) is introduced as one of Marciano’s trainers.

Any assumption that they’re just here to cheer on the hero and train him up is intriguingly subverted by how “The Survivor” treats them as a way to discuss the cold-blooded and self-serving arbitrariness of hatred.

Goldman, whose real name is Israel, eventually offers Harry two days of training so he won’t be destroyed in the ring.

The result is a charming film-within-a-film in which a Black guy, a Puerto Rican, and two Jews travel upstate and appear to spend as much time debating their relative place within WASP-run America as they do practicing Harry’s hooks, combos, and footwork.

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The episode is vintage Levinson, packed with instantly quotable quips, such as when Goldman emerges from a woodland outhouse and grouses, ” “There’s stuff from the Revolutionary War in there.

Aaron Burr most likely threw a load there.”

The Survivor Wins a Divided Decision

With Harry Haft’s incredible Holocaust account, ‘The Survivor’ wins a divided decision.

Survivor Review

The underlying plot in “The Survivor” is stronger than in the movie. Yet the material is so harrowing that it wins on a split judgment.

The film, which premieres on Holocaust Remembrance Day, isn’t up to the standard of HBO’s awards bait in the TV-movie genre, but it should pique interest in the incredible story of Harry Haft.

Director Barry Levinson has already worked on films about Joe Paterno, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, and Bernie Madoff, and this will be his fourth HBO film.

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While each of those people is more well-known, it’s difficult to beat Haft.

He escaped Auschwitz by boxing against fellow inmates to amuse the Nazis before escaping to the United States.

It is where his brief boxing career included a spectacular match against future champ Rocky Marciano.

Survivor Review: The Casting of Ben Foster

Who is excellent as Haft but is almost twice his age during WWII, was a significant blunder.

  • Even though Foster portrays the character over decades, those scenes. Stark and harsh, shot in black and white — are so crucial to the film that the gap between a character just out of his teens and the actor feels especially acute.
  • As a prisoner, Haft is discovered by a German officer (Billy Magnussen).
  • Who gives him the chance to survive — and even enjoy certain privileges — by fighting other inmates in gladiatorial combat.
  • Those bare-knuckled brawls helped him train for professional boxing. However, Haft is troubled by his memories and sidetracked by his search for a woman he knew at Auschwitz to see if she, too, survived and made it out.
  • He boxes in part to gain the recognition he needs to get his name out and alert his long-lost love. It is a quest that leads Haft to Miriam (“Phantom Threads”), who performs such investigations for survivors.
  • He informs her, “These are the decisions we made every day.”
  • It is displaying a common aversion to discussing what happened during the war. It carries over into his subsequent life as a husband and father.

When the story isn’t flashing back, it focuses on Haft’s boxing career, in which he trains with John Leguizamo.

Another fight pro is played by Danny DeVito, and Peter Sarsgaard plays a sportswriter who is interested in his narrative.

The Fight With Marciano – Survivor Review

Although only a minor part of Haft’s life, the fight with Marciano is masterfully shot.

“The Survivor,” adapted by Justine Juel Gillmer from a book by Haft’s son, Alan. Produced in collaboration with the Shoah Foundation.

Joins the pantheon of horrifying Holocaust stories that are both gory in their depictions of what happened and inspirational demonstrations of unbreakable spirit and resolve.

By any standard, it is an incredible and inspiring story. And even if it doesn’t convert into a spectacular film, like Haft’s brawl with Marciano. It’s a strong enough performance to gain your admiration.

Survivor Review: Harry Haft’s True Story and HBO’s “The Survivor”

The Survivor has finally arrived on HBO and HBO Max. Following its premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

The compelling drama is based on the extraordinary true story of Harry Haft. A Polish Holocaust survivor who was forced to fight fellow inmates to stay alive.

Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) plays Haft, alongside Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread). Billy Magnussen (No Time to Die), and Peter Sarsgaard (Jackie). John Leguizamo (Latin History for Morons), and Danny DeVito (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).

On Yom HaShoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, April 27, at 8 p.m. ET, HBO will launch The Survivor, which will be available to stream on HBO Max.

The actual Harry Haft and the true tale of The Survivor are covered in depth by Newsweek. There are some spoilers in this section.

Is the Survivor a True Story?

No, Survivor isn’t entirely true because the show has been accused of using body doubles for competitors and controlling which contestants are voted off the island against the contestants’ will.

The contestants will not go hungry at any stage during the competition.

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