Based on the true story of an uprising in one of the Polish death camps in which over 300 prisoners escaped during WWII. Leon Feldhendler(played by Alan Arkin), the Jewish leader of the camp, is trying to figure out how to get everybody out of the camp (rather than just a few) when Russian Jewish soldiers are brought to the camp. He makes an alliance with their leader, Alexander Pechersky (played by Rutger Hauer), and what transpires is a gritty means of escape that puts ‚The Great Escape‚? to shame. Joanna Pacula stars as Luca, the pretty love interest, who might be best known to Americans as the love interest of Doc Holliday in ‚Tombstone‚?.
The tale is gruesome and horrifying (even by 1980s standards) but there's enough determination and hope that you don't get depressed to the point where you want to give up and turn the DVD off. Alan Arkin is close to superb as the Jewish leader who points out the obvious futility in trying just any means of escape and waiting for the opportune moment where just not a few but all of the camp can get out. As to be expected it isn't a cake walk and of course there are surprises but it's well developed and does an admirable job (unlike many other films) of trying to stay true to what really happened at Sobibor.
Life of the characters are revealed at the end. Over 1.25M Jews were killed in this death camp. Close to 300 prisoners escaped. Something that would never happen in another death camp during WWII. Shortly after the escape the camp was pulled down and grown over in the hopes that nobody would remember it.
Based on a novel of a similar title by Richard Rashke. Camp survivor Thomas Blatt served as a technical consultant. Trivia below. After watching this again I need to compare it to the oh so mighty ‚Schindler's List‚?. Some have complained of the DVD quality but I don't feel that should factor into the grade of this fine film. This is graded from a 1980s standard when technology was less sophisticated.
STORY/PLOTTING/EDITING: B plus to A minus; CHARACTERS/DIALOGUE: B plus to A minus; CINEMATOGRAPHY: B plus; TONE/HOLOCAUST FOCUSES: A minus to A;
OVERALL GRADE: A minus; WHEN WATCHED: 2002 (third viewing and review in early July 2012).
TRIVIA/SOME SPOILERS: there were two other uprisings at Auschwitz and Treblinka. In actuality 300 did escape but most of them were recovered. Only a fraction of them evaded their pursuers. Roughly 50. Hauer's character truly did plan the revolt with a few others and was not recaptured historically. German SS were actually assassinated to confuse the rest of the guards. According to one person interviewed on the History channel (who had been at the camp) people truly did run over the corpses of the fallen to avoid setting off mines.
MORE SPOILERS: the desperate run through the minefield as they were being shot at was one of the most memorable moments. Creepy when the SS played classical music to make the new Jewish prisoners feel they were in something other than a death camp. Nice scene where the SS guy trying his boots out spotted the axe and moved away in time. Not all of them could be clueless idiots around people who clearly hated them. Believable assassinations performed by mostly normal people who were not experienced in such matters.