Title – The Survivor (2021)
Director – Barry Levinson (Rain Man)
Cast – Ben Foster, Billy Magnussen, Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard, Danny DeVito, John Leguizamo
Plot – Based on the memories of Auschwitz survivor and boxer Harry Haft (Foster), who used his skillset to help him try and find his lost love after the horrors of World War 2.
“Whatever it is…you can’t shock me”
Review by Eddie on 18/07/2022
Based purely off pedigree, one would expect HBO Max release The Survivor to pack quite the dramatic feature punch.
Directed by the Oscar winning Barry Levinson, starring a transformative Ben Foster in one of his beefiest lead roles yet, scored by everyone’s favorite composer Hans Zimmer and based off the incredible true story of Auschwitz survivor and boxing figure Harry Haft, The Survivor has all the ingredients of a heavy hitting product but despite its various success found throughout, Levinson’s film is a strangely disjointed and workmanlike affair that may not lay flat on the canvas, but doesn’t exactly command the ring either.
Centered and in turn built around Foster’s all in performance, one that see’s the well-liked if not exactly household name actor go all out inhabiting both the beefed-up Haft and the struggling war prisoner Haft, The Survivor has up its sleeve a commanding lead presence but nothing else about Levinson’s film elevates itself to Foster’s level as Levinson’s disjointed storytelling, in and out supporting characters and dull directional decisions often halt the should be gripping story of Haft in its tracks.
Never able to fully come to terms with the various elements of Haft’s story, from his career in the ring, his against the odds survival of the horrors of World War 2 and most importantly to him but not this film, his quest to be reunited with his long lost love after they were separated during and after the war ended, Levinson seems unable to steady the narrative ship of The Survivor as the films two hour running flirts between awards worthy and amateur hour far too frequently.
For such an emotionally challenging and ripe tale you can’t help but feel disappointed you don’t feel more for Haft and his tale, with the likes of the talented Bill Magnussen, Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard and a scene chewing (and spitting) Danny DeVito jumping on board at various points, the story and Foster deserved better from a filmmaker that has well and truly delivered in the past with the likes of Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam and Paterno that he is a gifted storyteller, just one unable to give Haft the unforgettable feature his life deserved to receive.
Final Say –
With all the trademarks of a prestigious and gripping feature, it’s hard not to have expected more from The Survivor and while its far from a complete non-event, there’s nothing going on here outside of Foster’s committed performance and true life interest to recommend a viewing.
2 1/2 spiting boxing coaches out of 5