Inspired by the true story of Pinchas Rosenbaum, (here, Elek Cohen portrayed by Jonas Armstrong) Walking with the Enemy tells of a young Hungarian Jew who saved countless lives during World War II. Disguised as a Nazi officer, he reroutes those would have been destined for labor camps or worse. Also featuring Ben Kingsley and Burn Gorman.
After escaping a labor camp, Elek reunites with friends but finds his family gone, home destroyed, and way of life completely shattered. Determined to help those around him, he begins doing what he can, including mixing directly with the Nazis. Wearing the uniform of a dead SS officer, he, with the help of friends, saves whoever he can. There are tough choices and deadly situations but he pushes on. These adventures, however, don’t happen until near the end of this stretched out tale.
There is a powerful tale that needs to be told here, surely, but director Mark Schmidt‘s freshman effort was not the best way. It takes somewhere in the vicinity of half an hour to build to the point where it seems like anything is actually happening, attempting to build a backstory and develop characters out of confusing snippets. Despite utilizing the overused tactic of beginning of a film with a flash of action from later on, the film fails to build any real suspense
Suffering from low production values and inexperience (Kingsley excluded of course, though his Hungarian accent leaves much to be desired), there were times where I felt I was watching a scene from Iron Sky or the Nazi themed Hollo Deck episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. Both of those were entertaining in their own ways, but this story cried out for more respect and talent than it was able to be afforded. From the villainously scarred Gorman, to Nazi soldiers that appeared less convincing than those in the film actually playing dress-up, to a number of CGI explosions that came straight from early 2000’s television, the whole thing feels like an ambitious made for TV event that doesn’t quite succeed.
There is, however, a distinct rise in quality as the film progresses, and it provides some poignantly powerful emotional punches at times. It’s not that the whole thing is terrible, it’s just that it is nothing special, which is a crying shame since the true story obviously is. Inasmuch as it introduces us to the lesser known heroics of brave men and women, it’s worth seeing, but as a movie, this type of thing has been done before, many times better. Stream it on Netflix later, but you’ll feel disappointed spending movie ticket money on this one.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“It is very generic.”
My rating: Two out of five hats
Walking with the Enemy sneaks into limited release, April 25