I had the pleasure of watching THE SURVIVOR last Fall at TIFF and it was one of my favorite screenings, so much so that I questioned why it didn’t receive acclaim this past award season – and wasn’t distributed before now.
The film is based on a true story and chronicles the life of boxer Harry Haft (Ben Foster), who survived the atrocities at Auschwitz – from which he eventually escapes – by participating in gladiator, fight-to-the-death style boxing matches that were forced by soldiers for entertainment purposes. After his escape, he travels to America where he begins to box professionally – including a bout with the late champion Rocky Marciano – with strong hopes that his long, lost love would read about him and they could reconnect.
Haft struggles through survivor’s guilt and PTSD as we watch how they impact his navigation of present-day life. And a long-held secret that Harry finally shares with his wife is one of the most heartbreaking moments, and there are several, in the film.
Director Barry Levinson shapes a story of trauma and horror into one of redemption and beauty with sophisticated flair and his eye for capturing portrait perfect moments is done with ease – the last shot of the film coupled with a rendition of “God Bless America” is particularly moving.
A fitting release date, in correspondence with Holocaust Remembrance Day, THE SURVIVOR premiered today on HBO and HBO Max and I definitely recommend adding this one to the streaming queue asap. I rate it 4 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
Until next thought, Thomasena
Director: Barry Levinson
Screenwriter: Justine Juel Gillmer
Cast: Ben Foster, Vicky Krieps, Billy Magnussen, Peter Sarsgaard, Saro Emirze, Dar Zuzovsky, Danny DeVito , and John Leguizamo.