THE GREY ZONE Add To My Top 10

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Release Date: October 18, 2002

Starring: Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Mira Sorvino, and David Arquette

Genre: Drama

Audience: Adults REVIEWER: Jerry
Langford What would you do to
extend a few weeks or months
to your life? That is the
intriguing question posed in
THE GREY ZONE. This story,
based on eyewitness accounts
of real events, focuses on a
group known as the
Sonderkommandos, Jewish
prisoners who voluntarily
assisted the Nazis as they
exterminated thousands of
lives in concentration camps.
Complicity, duplicity and
deception are major themes
throughout and the issues are
not as clear cut as they might
appear. THE GREY ZONE could
have remained focused solely
on the plight of these
conflicted and condemned
souls, but that would have
made the pain of the story too
much to bear. Amazingly, out
of this same self-despised
unit comes bravery and heroism
rarely seen in stories of
these dark days. Using their
modest freedoms in the camp,
the Sonderkommandos work
frantically to stage an armed
rebellion, an uprising that
will be the first of its kind.
Rather than revolt to earn
their freedom from the camp,
they choose to wage a battle
with the Nazis in an attempt
to destroy as much of the
death "machinery" as possible.
Destined to fail, this
insurrection becomes the only
armed uprising in the history
of Auschwitz. THE GREY ZONE's
depiction of Poland's famous
Auschwitz II camp feels, at
times, frighteningly real. The
fine cast adds complexity and
realism to the
thought-provoking issues
raised. Mira Sorvino, almost
unrecognizable here, portrays
a woman who risks death to
smuggle gunpowder out of the
women's munitions factory in
the camp. Her character, Dina,
is later brutally tortured to
reveal her accomplices. Dina
chooses to end her life
voluntarily rather than allow
others to suffer for her
silence. David Arquette and
David Chandler powerfully
embody two of the conflicted
men of the Jewish special
unit. These are men tortured
with consciences which accuse
them for their actions (or
inactions) and yet who elicit
empathy for their desire to
find a higher purpose for
their lives. Harvey Keitel is
terrifyingly ruthless as the
German camp commander
Muhsfeldt. Daniel Benzali as
Schlermer is a bright spot of
courage as the prisoner who
would rather die saving others
than escape with his own life.
Filled with horrific imagery,
THE GREY ZONE is a dark and
haunting movie about man's
inhumanity to man. Director
Tim Blake Nelson effectively
keeps the audience detached
but involved at a deeper
level. Some scenes are as
clinical as a documentary: men
are shown working hard, as in
a factory, but they are
working with corpses,
disposing of them with intense
efficiency. Viewers are
frequently reminded that these
men work as if their lives
depended on it. Images of nude
corpses, both adults and
children, being tossed into a
fire emphasize how far these
workers have gone to stay
alive themselves. Cryptic
euphemisms such as cargo,
research and liquidate are
uttered by both Germans and
Jewish workers, as if it is
too troubling to speak of the
horrors directly. Echos of
screams through empty hallways
becomes more frightening than
actually seeing the people
gassed in the shower rooms.
Despite all these terrible
scenes, THE GREY ZONE remains
an emotionally compelling
movie. The story itself
alternates between the
conspiring workers in the
crematoria and the heroism of
a group of prisoners who want
to take action before their
own time is up.
Sonderkommandos were typically
executed after only four
months of service. During
their assignment, they were
commonly used by the Germans
to deceive arriving prisoners.
Scenes of such deception are
as troubling to watch as the
executions themselves. Some
workers played upbeat music in
an orchestra as new arrivals
moved from train cars to camp.
Others added fresh paint to
walls to hide the blood or
hints of impending death.
Still others would usher
frightened men, women and
children into the enclosed
chambers to be gassed. Most,
though, worked long hours
disposing of bodies in
furnaces, shoveling ashes and
preparing for the next group
of arrivals. THE GREY ZONE is
an unusual approach to this
dark place in history. There
is an eerie sense of
authenticity that many will
find unsettling. It contains
strong humanist elements,
numerous blasphemies, and many
incidents of human courage,
bravery and sacrifice. One
prisoner tries in vain to save
a young girl, saying, "I hope
to God we save you." Hope is a
rare commodity in this place,
and, according to THE GREY
ZONE, spiritual faith was
non-existent in the
camps. Those interested in
viewing THE GREY ZONE must be
warned that the content is
very stark and disturbing, but
the ethical issues raised are
worth further examination. THE
GREY ZONE, while inspiring in
some respects, is a little too
godless for a story set at
death's door. Christians would
be better off renting THE
HIDING PLACE, a far more
edifying story of faith set in
this dark time of
history. Please address your
comments to: Tom Ortenberg,
President Lions Gate
Releasing 5750 Wilshire Blvd.,
#501 Los Angeles, CA
90036 Phone: (323)
692-7300 Fax: (323)
692-7373 Website:
www.lionsgatefilms.com

Rating: R

Runtime: 108 minutes

Address Comments To:

Content:

(HHH, Ab, B, C, LLL, VVV, NNN, A, D, MMM) Very strong humanist worldview as Jews are exterminated in Nazi death camps, with humanist worldviews of Jewish workers allowing themselves to be used for their own selfish purposes and strong anti-Jewish themes throughout although a few moral characters try to stand against the evil and some redemptive content of self-sacrifice; four blasphemies and 30 strong obscenities (mostly "f-words"); strong violence includes graphic executions, massacres, so-called mercy killings, suicides, beatings with much blood, shootings, fighting, torture, electrocution, corpses being burned in ovens and fields, and German guard thrown into fire while still alive; drinking and smoking; and, themes of deception, lying, stealing, bribery, and constant threat of death combined with scenes of human courage, bravery and sacrifice.

GENRE: Drama

HHH

Ab

B

C

LLL

VVV

NNN

A

D

MMM

Summary:

The ethical question posed in THE GREY ZONE revolves around the Jewish prisoners who voluntarily assisted the Nazis as they exterminated thousands of lives in concentration camps. THE GREY ZONE also shows the only armed uprising in the history of the lethal Auschwitz II camp in Poland. Still, it is a disturbing view of this dark place in history.

Review:

What would you do to extend a few weeks or months to your life? That is the intriguing question posed in THE GREY ZONE. This story, based on eyewitness accounts of real events, focuses on a group known as the Sonderkommandos, Jewish prisoners who voluntarily assisted the Nazis as they exterminated thousands of lives in concentration camps. Complicity, duplicity and deception are major themes throughout and the issues are not as clear cut as they might appear.

THE GREY ZONE could have remained focused solely on the plight of these conflicted and condemned souls, but that would have made the pain of the story too much to bear. Amazingly, out of this same self-despised unit comes bravery and heroism rarely seen in stories of these dark days. Using their modest freedoms in the camp, the Sonderkommandos work frantically to stage an armed rebellion, an uprising that will be the first of its kind. Rather than revolt to earn their freedom from the camp, they choose to wage a battle with the Nazis in an attempt to destroy as much of the death "machinery" as possible. Destined to fail, this insurrection becomes the only armed uprising in the history of Auschwitz.

THE GREY ZONE's depiction of Poland's famous Auschwitz II camp feels, at times, frighteningly real. The fine cast adds complexity and realism to the thought-provoking issues raised. Mira Sorvino, almost unrecognizable here, portrays a woman who risks death to smuggle gunpowder out of the women's munitions factory in the camp. Her character, Dina, is later brutally tortured to reveal her accomplices. Dina chooses to end her life voluntarily rather than allow others to suffer for her silence. David Arquette and David Chandler powerfully embody two of the conflicted men of the Jewish special unit. These are men tortured with consciences which accuse them for their actions (or inactions) and yet who elicit empathy for their desire to find a higher purpose for their lives. Harvey Keitel is terrifyingly ruthless as the German camp commander Muhsfeldt. Daniel Benzali as Schlermer is a bright spot of courage as the prisoner who would rather die saving others than escape with his own life.

Filled with horrific imagery, THE GREY ZONE is a dark and haunting movie about man's inhumanity to man. Director Tim Blake Nelson effectively keeps the audience detached but involved at a deeper level. Some scenes are as clinical as a documentary: men are shown working hard, as in a factory, but they are working with corpses, disposing of them with intense efficiency. Viewers are frequently reminded that these men work as if their lives depended on it. Images of nude corpses, both adults and children, being tossed into a fire emphasize how far these workers have gone to stay alive themselves. Cryptic euphemisms such as cargo, research and liquidate are uttered by both Germans and Jewish workers, as if it is too troubling to speak of the horrors directly. Echos of screams through empty hallways becomes more frightening than actually seeing the people gassed in the shower rooms. Despite all these terrible scenes, THE GREY ZONE remains an emotionally compelling movie.

The story itself alternates between the conspiring workers in the crematoria and the heroism of a group of prisoners who want to take action before their own time is up. Sonderkommandos were typically executed after only four months of service. During their assignment, they were commonly used by the Germans to deceive arriving prisoners. Scenes of such deception are as troubling to watch as the executions themselves. Some workers played upbeat music in an orchestra as new arrivals moved from train cars to camp. Others added fresh paint to walls to hide the blood or hints of impending death. Still others would usher frightened men, women and children into the enclosed chambers to be gassed. Most, though, worked long hours disposing of bodies in furnaces, shoveling ashes and preparing for the next group of arrivals.

THE GREY ZONE is an unusual approach to this dark place in history. There is an eerie sense of authenticity that many will find unsettling. It contains strong humanist elements, numerous blasphemies, and many incidents of human courage, bravery and sacrifice. One prisoner tries in vain to save a young girl, saying, "I hope to God we save you." Hope is a rare commodity in this place, and, according to THE GREY ZONE, spiritual faith was non-existent in the camps.

Those interested in viewing THE GREY ZONE must be warned that the content is very stark and disturbing, but the ethical issues raised are worth further examination. THE GREY ZONE, while inspiring in some respects, is a little too godless for a story set at death's door. Christians would be better off renting THE HIDING PLACE, a far more edifying story of faith set in this dark time of history.

Please address your comments to:

Tom Ortenberg, President

Lions Gate Releasing

5750 Wilshire Blvd., #501

Los Angeles, CA 90036

Phone: (323) 692-7300

Fax: (323) 692-7373

Website: www.lionsgatefilms.com

SUMMARY: The ethical question posed in THE GREY ZONE revolves around the Jewish prisoners who voluntarily assisted the Nazis as they exterminated thousands of lives in concentration camps. THE GREY ZONE also shows the only armed uprising in the history of the lethal Auschwitz II camp in Poland. Still, it is a disturbing view of this dark place in history.

In Brief: