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The Grey Zone (2001)



Average Rating: 7/10
Reviews Counted: 82
Fresh: 56 | Rotten: 26

A grim and devastating tale of the Holocaust.


Average Rating: 6.5/10
Critic Reviews: 28
Fresh: 18 | Rotten: 10

A grim and devastating tale of the Holocaust.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 6,547

My Rating

Movie Info

Actor, writer, and director Tim Blake Nelson adapts this grim look at the Holocaust from his own play, based on Miklós Nyiszli's book, Auschwitz: A Doctor's Eyewitness Account. The film centers on the Sonderkommando: Jewish concentration camp prisoners whose job was to herd their fellow Jews into the gas chamber, and to dispose of the bodies following the execution. In return, these prisoners received food and a little more time before their own executions. As the members of the sonderkommando



Tim Blake Nelson

Mar 18, 2003


Lions Gate Films - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (94) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (56) | Rotten (26) | DVD (4)

Even in its darkest moments, a heartening defiance underlies gut-wrenching calamity.

November 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Grey Zone isn't for everyone, but its riveting power constitutes a stunning (as in it leaves you shattered and shaken) achievement.

November 8, 2002
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[Nelson's] movie about morally compromised figures leaves viewers feeling compromised, unable to find their way out of the fog and the ashes.

November 7, 2002
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Like the Ancient Mariner, Nelson grabs us by the collar and says, You must know about this. You must bear witness. And so you do.

November 7, 2002
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is a masterpiece and yet another chapter of the dark period called: "The Holocaust."

April 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

So many incredibly raw, wrenching--and, crucially, unsparingly unsentimental--scenes and moments that it's impossible to not be haunted by the film.

January 2, 2009 Full Review Source:

It unsuccessfully tries to bridge the gap between pathos and establishing a sense of realism, coming across as forced. Overweight prisoners and Harvey Keitel's German accent distract from the mood of the film.

June 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Scouts
Film Scouts

Filme trágico, complexo, difícil - e que pode ser assistido em sessão dupla com O Pianista.

July 25, 2003
Cinema em Cena

Roman Polanski's The Pianist may have been showered with Oscar glory ... but the best Holocaust film of 2002 was actually The Grey Zone.

May 13, 2003
Creative Loafing

Unlike Schindler's List, ... this uses history to remind us of the tenuousness of our own morality, to remind us that ... most of us will never have to know what we might be capable of in certain circumstances.

April 26, 2003

The effort is sincere and the results are honest, but the film is so bleak that it's hardly watchable.

April 21, 2003 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Hauntingly unforgettable.

December 30, 2002 Full Review Source: Flick Filosopher
Flick Filosopher

An intelligent and deeply felt work about impossible, irrevocable choices and the price of making them.

December 27, 2002 Full Review Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Enquirer

It's hard to imagine anybody ever being "in the mood" to view a movie as harrowing and painful as The Grey Zone, but it's equally hard to imagine anybody being able to tear their eyes away from the screen once it's started.

November 29, 2002
Vue Weekly (Edmonton, Canada)

Brings light to a little-known facet of the Holocaust in a way that does justice to its moral ambiguities.

November 19, 2002 Full Review Source: eye WEEKLY

If this story must be told and retold -- and indeed it must -- then The Grey Zone is to be lauded for finding a new and ingenious angle.

November 18, 2002
Film Blather

Effectively feeds our senses with the chilling sights and sounds from within the camp to create a completely numbing experience.

November 18, 2002 Full Review Source:

If stars could be awarded on the basis of good intentions, The Grey Zone should be king of the galaxy. Unfortunately, it lands on earth with something of a thud.

November 18, 2002 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

As bold and unyielding as The Grey Zone stands with its historical subtext, there are a few factors detracting from the powerful message.

November 15, 2002 Full Review Source:

The Grey Zone is powerful, mesmerizing and disturbing.

November 9, 2002
Sun Newspapers of Cleveland

An uncomfortable movie, suffocating and sometimes almost senseless, The Grey Zone does have a center, though a morbid one.

November 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Oregonian

[Blake] creates moments ... that are impossible to forget.

November 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee

Audience Reviews for The Grey Zone

I'm sorry, but I have a real hard time watching movies that are based in other countries, and the people do not even have accents. The guards did, but not the prisoners. It was as if they all were American prisoners. I have seen soooo many outstanding Holocaust films. This one not included...
December 9, 2013

Super Reviewer

Based on a play based on a book, this is Tim Blake Nelson's harrowing look at the innerworkings of moral issues within a concentration camp. The story is focused on a group of Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz who are tasked with cleaning out the ashes of their dead comrades from the crematoriums. When they realize they are next on the list to die, they decided to have an uprising.

This is some very hard stuff to watch, but it is also phenomenally amazing. It finds the right note between exploitative and overly emotional sentimentality, and despite being something hard to watch, it's also very hard to look away.

The films boasts a talented cast who all give some really good performances. Well, okay, Keitel's accent is a bit iffy, but he's great at being a really cruel antagonist. David Arquette is surprisingly really good in a dramatic lead role, and it's nice seeing him step away from comedy once in a while. Other supporting roles are filled by the likes of Natasha Lyonne, Mira Sorvino, and Steve Buscemi among others.

It's up there with Schindler's List and The Pianist as some of the best films about the Holocaust, and the direction is hauntingly effective. This isn't an uplifting film as you might have guessed, but it does really give you a lot to think about, mostly because of the issues it raises.

Give this one a watch. It's something quite special.
March 1, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

A group of Hungarian jews who work in a death camp plan an uprising to destroy the crematorium when it becomes clear that they are next on the death list. Based upon an eye witness account, The Grey Zone is a harrowing story of life in a concentration camp where all human morality is abandoned in the attempt to stay alive. The characters are all regular people who are forced to choose between collaboration and death and in turn have to live with the consequences of their actions and it makes you wonder what you would do if you were in the same position. Great performances all round (Harvey Keitel's Hogan's Heroes accent notwithstanding) make for an intelligent and affecting story that maybe is not on a level with Schindler's List or Downfall, but it's still a powerful and thought provoking film about what happens when human life loses all value. Grim but in good way.
March 7, 2011
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

November 3, 2009

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Primo Levi's The Grey Zone (UK)
  • La zona gris (ES)
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