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The Counterfeiters is a gripping account of one prisoner's moral dilemma, superbly portrayed by Karl Markovics.
All Critics (125)
| Top Critics (37)
| Fresh (117)
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| DVD (8)
It's details like that-too bizarre not to be true-that give "The Counterfeiters" its bitter wallop. It's an astonishing tale of cunning, compromise and survival.
As writer-director Stefan Ruzowitzky shows, powerfully, affectingly, in The Counterfeiters, the privileges experienced by this small team of Jews and criminals came at a price.
The winner of this year's Oscar for best foreign-language film puts devils, as well as angels, on the head of the pin.
This Oscar-winning film ranks as the most unnerving, disturbing, true-life account yet of endurance under Nazi oppression.
This dark, absorbing thriller is not just a moral exercise in the awful choices faced by those determined to survive history's worst genocide. It invites us to imagine ourselves in the shoes of a not-quite-lovable rogue.
The Counterfeiters, written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, is a morally challenging twist on the long and honorable tradition of forgery movies.
Is this how we confront evil in 2007, not by documenting it faithfully or fighting it openly, but instead by blaming its victims for their victimhood?
What makes this film a must-see is Markovics, who plays Saloman. Not just his performance, but his face-a long, dour, hound-dog face that suggests a cosmic shrug, splitting the difference between resignation and resistance.
The breathtaking performances and superb style earned The Counterfeiters the 2008 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
Although there is nothing ground-breaking about The Counterfeiters, it tells a moving and engrossing story with depth and intelligence, and is well worth seeing.
Sally Sorowitsch is the little gangster who outsmarts the big gangsters. What could be more gratifying than that?
2008's Oscar-winning foreign film is unquestionably good, a wholly absorbing and taut drama that is as engaging as it is powerful. But Oscar-worthy? There's room for debate.
This dark film based on a true story works as an absorbing moral exercise about the terrible choices that some were forced to make in order to survive the horrors of the Holocaust, and it deserves even more credit for making us sympathize with a not-very-likable anti-hero.
The Counterfeiters is a fictionalized do-or-die tale of survival by a group of talented counterfeiters set World War II Nazi concentration camp. Bold, brave, and provocative new perspective on Operation Bernhard and its role in the Holocaust. Credible cast and performances. A deserving 2007 Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film winner.
It may be hard to some to dare say negative things about a movie with such a delicate storyline, but The Counterfeiters has really nothing extraordinary to it and I now seem to be the only one to say it is a terribly overrated movie. The direction, which gives a TV look to the film (it was a great thing for The Pianist; here, it is only making it look cheap), is unfortunately very unsensitive while strong emotions should be what you'd find in a movie that is supposed to be inspiring. While it failed to inspire anything in me, it did manage to protray the horror of the Holocaust but never came close to other great films of the genre. Its qualities are never enough considerable to overcome its tactless and cold portrayal of a journey that was supposed to feel inspiring.
I would hardly be the first to compare Nazi concentration camps to Hell, but this film brought to mind an interesting way to do so: the notion of contrapasso, from Dante's Divine Comedy (the first volume, Inferno, if that wasn't obvious).
Quite simply, contrapasso is when the sinner in Hell is punished by having to continually commit his or her sin for eternity... or at least until enough prayers get the spirit out of Hell and into Purgatory and then Paradise.
The lead character, Sally, is a master counterfeiter, both a criminal and a Jew, and as such he finds himself arrested. The punishment, in a Dantean sense, fits the only one of the two qualifications that is actually a crime: the counterfeiter is doomed to continue counterfeiting.
When Dante and Virgil reached the very depths of Hell and discovered Satan, it was not fiery, but effectively frozen solid, and though incredibly powerful, all Satan could do was flap his wings. This is what circulated the air in the Inferno, and effectively kept the whole system moving. The point? In a Dantean world view, even the greatest evil has a role to play in God's plan.
No, I'm not about to defend the Nazis, I hope you didn't stop reading. Like Oskar Schindler, the master counterfeiter Sally is able to keep a staff and thereby save his workers' lives. Much to the chagrin of Burger, another inmate who can't bear the thought of bankrolling the Nazi's war effort, Sally and his crew print forged British Pound and American Dollar notes simply to stay alive. And so, in a larger sense, printing the money - though aiding an evil force - had a benevolent role to play, as it allowed the group to stay alive until the camp was liberated. And Burger, being a deceiver and continually sabotaging the Dollar project just enough to delay them longer, was also a hero despite his seemingly reprehensible actions making him persona non grata by the end.
(Bit of a spoiler, I know, but Holocaust movies are so depressing already, it's almost unheard of to kill the main character... if you watch a lot of them you generally know that they'll survive.)
Other Holocaust films have moved me more (Fateless) or had a bigger/better production values (Schindler's List), but this might be the one of the best plots among those that that I've seen: the contradiction is exciting, as you spend the whole film unsure if you want them to "crack the Dollar" or not, as neither succeeding nor failing guarantees survival. I also found it interesting that the counterfeiters were first artists, for some would argue that to attempt to make a film about the Holocaust in and of itself is, like counterfeiting money, a perversion of artistic talent.
It always blows me away to see a director entertain the notion of what humanity will do when reduced to its basest level of existence, and in this case, it was the flaws of the counterfeiters that made them human, and separated them from the faceless and automatic Nazis.
A well written and acted film that certainly deserved its Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, one that you can either just watch as a good, straight-forward Holocaust movie, or if you want, think a ton about it - the film lends itself to both approches, and should be on your list.
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