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Schindler's List

Schindler's List (1993)

I didn't like Schindler the first time I saw it. I found it to be long and very depressing. But through repeated viewings, I began to respect Schindler as a very well-directed and well acted war film, full of confronting moments and excellent use of black and white.

For those who don't know, SL is the true story of Oskar Schindler, a war profiteer who saved 1,100 Jewish people during WW2. The story is adapted from Thomas Keneally's novel Schindler's Ark and is directed by Steven Spielberg. At this time, Spielberg was king of the blockbuster movies and struggling to be taken seriously. Desperate for Oscar recognition, Spielberg spent a decade trying to get Schindler made. He finally did in 1993, quickly after his last great blockbuster Jurassic Park. And what a job he did. Shot in striking black and white, Spielberg is unflinching in his portrayal of Nazies and the violence in the film. No scene is needless and every scene is engrossing. The "Liquidation of the Krakow Ghetto" sequence is almost as brutal as the opening of Saving Private Ryan. Spielberg knows exactly how to make a grown-up drama and this is his definitive masterpiece.

The music and editing are brilliant in this film. The score is hauntingly memorable. The cinematography and costume design are as good as any film I have ever seen.

The cast is impeccable. Liam Neeson is perfect as Oskar Schindler, effectively displaying emotion, charisma and elegance in one of the finest performances of 1993. Ben Kingsley is the subtle center of the film and creates one of the best performances of his magnificent career.

But then there is Ralph Fiennes. Over Leo and Tommy Lee, he should have definitely won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. He is monstrous and psychotically evil as the sadistic and depraved Amon Goeth, an SS officer who kills Jewish people because they are meaningless to him. He is suitably intense and is a very complex villian It is arguably Fiennes' best performance to date, topping his work in The English Patient & his turn as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise.

This review has been mainly about the technical side, so what about the subject matter itself? It's a dark retelling of a dark chapter of history. But it is also a lesson in morality; not all Nazies are bad. In this case, Schindler's life begins to change after witnessing the undeserved suffering of human people at the hands of complete monsters.

Schindler's List doesn't make for easy viewing, but it one of the most engrossing and interesting true stories ever to be translated to a motion picture. The performances are great, the direction is immaculate and everything else is just superb. Highly recommended.