After Germany invades Poland in 1939, the Nazis decree that 350,000 Warsaw Jews be forcibly moved into a cordoned area known as the Warsaw Ghetto. Idealistic teacher Mordechai Anielewicz (Hank Azaria) decides the Jews must... more » rise up against the Nazis and creates the Jewish Fighting Organization (JFO). He tries to secure the support of Adam Czerniakow (Donald Sutherland), the morally conflicted head of the Warsaw Ghetto's Jewish Council, but Adam declines because he knows that any act of resistance will provoke the Germans to retaliate by killing innocent Jews. Determined to mobilize a resistance alone if he has to, Mordechai recruits his friends and covert couriers whose ability to pass as Aryan helps them smuggle in arms and explosives from the Aryan side of the city, building up an arsenal to fight the Nazis. When the Germans begin deporting 300,000 Jews to the Treblinka death camp, the JFO begins acts of resistance that culminate with ghetto fighters firing their first gunshots against the Nazis. When it becomes clear that the JFO is a force to be reckoned with, the German High Command sends in General Stroop (Jon Voight), who is determined to end the uprising in two or three days. Capturing the horror that unfolds is Fritz Hippler (Cary Elwes), a filmmaker assigned by Hitler's chief propagandist to promote anti-Semitism with a film about Jewish life in the ghetto. When the Nazis continue to suffer more casualties in their battle with the ghetto fighters, General Stroop decides to raze the ghetto. But even that can't stop the JFO. Forced to go underground into bunkers but energized by their success, the resisters fight on, ultimately holding off the Nazi army longer than the entire country of Poland. They're determined to live with honor--and if need be, die with honor--while lighting the torch for resistance in the occupied territories.« less
This made-for-televsion adaptation of Dan Kurzman's harrowing history of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 'The Bravest Battle,' is a well orchestrated telling of a true story which works hard at sticking to the facts and avoiding melodrama. Some critics surely will be upset that various pieces of history are missing, but, for a three hour mini-series, its director, Jon Avnet, does yeoman work. Most of the cast works well, Leelee Sobieski, Jon Voight, Donald Sutherland, & Cary Elwes are all splendid. Unfortunately, the two leads are completely unconvincing. The two leaders of the ZOB (Jewish Fighting Organization), Mordechai Anielewicz (leader of the ZOB) & Yitzhak Zuckerman (ZOB second-in-command). are played by Hank Azaria and David Schwimmer. Both look completely lost playing hard men. Anielewicz, who, if you've read about him, was a charming assassin, a complex passive/aggressive man halfway between King Saul and Bugsy Siegal, is portrayed as a sort of svelte, muscular, brilliantined Versace model with a tan by Azaria. A gifted comic actor and Broadway performer, Azaria seems to be so intent on being 'a tough Jew' that we lose any sense of whoever he was supposed to once have been as a teacher, musician and intellectual. Stranded even further from any sense of character truth is Schwimmer's Yitzhak Zuckerman. Schwimmer's Zuckerman spend much precious time explaining to Anielewicz why he should be calm and not always be angry. After learning that his family has ben wiped out, however, Zuckerman turns into a second angel of death. Wearing a tight full-length Gestapo-style raincoat, Schwimmer is about as convincing as Dr. Ruth Westheimer would be in the part.In one scene where he dispatches a number of SS men to hell with a pistol, Schwimmer grips his pistol like he's holding a dog turd. I understand that Schwimmer wants to do more in his career than comedic roles, but playing Zuckerman as if he were a flaming hunk of rough trade cruising for Friday night rough trade on Christopher Street was a grievous mistake. Otherwise, the battle scenes are beautifully choreographed and the DVD extras are splendidly informative.
Daryl M. from DENVER, PA Reviewed on 4/9/2010...
Very good movie. A part of history that is not talked about enough.
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A fine tribute to forgotten heroes
Dave | Tennessee United States | 10/01/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For a tv movie, this was really gripping. The cast, which includes Hank Azaria, Leelee Sobieski, David Schwimmer, Jon Voight, Donald Sutherland, & Cary Elwes, is outstanding, especially Hank Azaria & David Schwimmer who are usually in comedic roles. It would be impossible for a 3-hour miniseries to cover the Uprising in depth, but this does a great job of portraying the ZOB (Jewish Fighting Organization) leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Mordechai Anielewicz (leader of the ZOB) & Yitzhak Zuckerman (ZOB second-in-command). Also you see the brutal tactics of General Jurgen Stroop, SS commander of the Warsaw Ghetto operation. The battle scenes are nicely done & there are two scenes in particular that need mentioning: the scene with the German troops marching into the Ghetto & singing is entirely accurate (Later, however, the German troops would not be so cocky!). Also, the scene where a Jewish fighter ignites a hidden bomb killing many German troops is entirely accurate. That bomb was responsible for nearly 100 dead Germans! There are many excellent books that have been written about this Uprising, & I recommend "The Bravest Battle" by Dan Kurzman (-excellent book!)& "Kazik: Memoirs of a Warsaw Ghetto Fighter" by Kazik (Simha Rotem). Kazik is one of the main characters in the movie "Uprising" & so this book is perfect for those who want to learn more after seeing the wonderful movie. The special edition dvd is great, with informative documentaries on the real Uprising & the making of the film. There are two different commentaries where you can here the director or the actors discuss the movie in depth. This dvd is a must-have for all World War Two buffs!"
Years later, but we must never forget...
M. Miller | TN | 01/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen a variety of Holocaust films, due to my interest in World War II, and I would have to say this is probably one of the best, if not the best, that I've ever seen.
Uprising brings to us everything that Schindler's List does: touching story, great cinematography, and good actors. However, instead of focusing on a middleman such as Schindler (German helping Jews), this film focuses on the Jews helping themselves.
The emotions were strongly carried through due to overall great performances from many actors: Leelee Sobieski, Hank Azaria, David Schwimmer, Donald Sutherland, and many more.
This is film of hope, love, and cherishing life while you have it, all while in the toughest of times. These people overcame enormous odds by standing up to the oppressive and barbarous reign of the Germans, and not unlike one of the German characters, we now have it on film. Moreover, it is a great film."
The Warsaw ghetto uprising as more than a moral victory
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/08/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Uprising" is a story of the Holocaust that really could not be told until NBC showed this two-part made-for-television movie in 2001. The story of the Warsaw ghetto uprising has been told before. In the 1978 mini-series "Holocaust," a major subplot had to do with Moses Weiss (Sam Wanamker), who becomes active in the uprising before being caught and shot by the Nazis at the end. Other movies dealing with the Holocaust have touched on this heroic but futile act of resistance against Hitler's army. This time, however, the point is to cast the uprising in terms that count for more than a moral victory.
When Poland fell to Nazi Germany the city's Jewish population was put into a walled in section of the city, thereby creating the ghetto. In the summer of 1942, after 300,000 Jews were deported from Warsaw to Treblinka the first reports of mass murder were heard in the Warsaw ghetto. Mordecai Anielewicz, then 23-years-old, and other young Jews formed the Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Fighting Organization), issuing proclamations calling for the Jewish people to resist being sent away in railroad cars to the death caps, and firing upon German troops trying to round by Jews for deportation.
The "Uprising" began on April 19, 1943, when German troops and police entered the ghetto and were repulsed by the fighters. It is believed that less than a thousand such fighters held off the heavily armed and better trained Germans for almost a month, using mostly pistols and Molotov cocktails, but on May 16 the revolt was finally crushed. Seven thousand of the 56,000 Jews captured were shot, and the rest were deported to either killing centers or concentration camps to be exterminated by the Nazis. At one point the Warsaw ghetto consisted of 450,000 human beings.
The point of "Uprising" is not only that for the first time somebody stood up against German occupation, but that some of the fighters did indeed survive. Mordechai Anielewicz (Hank Azaria), Yitzhak Zuckerman (David Schwimmer), Tosia Altman (Leelee Sobieski), and many others depicted in "Uprising" are historic figures. Azaria and Schwimmer obviously stand out, not because of the roles they play in the narrative but also because the actors are going to great pains to remind fans they are not just comic actors. Also standing out are Sadie Frost as Zuckerman's wife, Zivia, and Stephen Moyer as freedom fighter Kazik Rodem, who wrestle with the hard questions of not only knowing what to do, but how to do it. Director and executive producer Jon Avnet has recreated the ghetto in great detail and makes full use of cinematographer Denis Lenoir and composer Maurice Jarre to make sure this television movie looks and sounds like a theatrical film.
"Uprising" repeatedly asks the question of how a moral person can sustain a moral code in an immoral world, and the uprising serves as the obvious answer. Where "Uprising" is different from its predecessors is how Avnet recasts history to emphasize a sense of how the Jews "win" here. Even though the Nazis will kill 99% of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, they did not get them all and they did not get them fast enough to please Himmler and Hitler. Nazi General Jurgen Stroop has to endure being out thought and out fought by a bunch of rabble, all the way having his failure filmed by documentarian Fritz Hippler, who is working on "The Eternal Jew" because for some reason the Nazis do not find the German people to be anti-Semitic enough. The Nazis continue to commit atrocities throughout this movie, but the emphasis is clearly on what the other side is doing.
"The Grey Zone," which also came out in 2001, is of a similar mind in terms of presenting Jews fighting back, and depicts the October 7, 1944 uprising when members of the 12th sonder-kommando succeeded in blowing up two of the four crematoria at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. The sonder-kommandos were the ones who escorted their fellow Jews to die in the gas chambers, then took the bodies to the crematoriums, and disposed of the ashes. For four months the sonder-kommandos carried out their duties, and enjoyed certain privileges (compared to the other inmates), and then were executed. This group of Jews also decided to fight back and like those who resisted the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto, deserve to be remembered. But only once we have accepted the total horror and scope of the Holocaust can we tell stories such as these, ever mindful that they represent a minority report. How many of you were stunned with a train full of Jews left Auschwitz in "Schindler's List"? The incident was true, but it becomes difficult for us to accept that other side of the story given the overwhelming death count of the Final Solution.
The two commentary tracks are a mixed bag. Avnet spends too much time commenting on the historical accuracy of the action and not enough talking about his decisions as a director, particularly with regards to what changes he had to make when his planned theatrical film was downgraded to a television movie. Azaria, Schwimmer, and Voight recorded their commentary two weeks about September 11th, and engage each other to talk about the production and their performances. Sobieski's comments were recorded separately and edited in, and like Avent, she has a hard time going it alone. There are two documentaries accompanying "Uprising." "Resistance" is a too brief look at the history of the resistance movement in the Warsaw ghetto, although it does provide background on the characters and interviews with some of the surviving fighters. "Breaking Down the Walls: The Road to Recreating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising," is a behind the scenes featurette with clips and interviews. However, anyone inspired to find out more about the history of the events dramatized here will find plenty of resources easily accessible on the Internet."
M. Miller | 10/10/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A full telling of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto is rare - normally it's a short segment of a longer tale about WWII or the Holocaust. So this DVD is a welome addition to historical drama and complaints about a lack of pace or action are unfair.The Jews walled up in the ghetto did not have huge arsenals of weapons and the people who became heroes were ordinary citizens -hence the lack of a huge cast of big-name stars is welcome. And the performances coaxed from the likes of Cary Lewes, as the sickeningly anti-semitic film-maker Fritz Hippler are worthy of praise. And it was a revelation to see David (Friends) Schwimmer turning in such a heart-rendering turn as one of the heroes of the revolt (and he gets full marks for a realistic but not-over-the-top accent).Where the drama falls short - as all are bound to - is the inability to reveal the true horror these human beings were forced to endure - and for how long. A 10-part mini-series mihght give some idea of scale of time. The drama Tenko, about women interned by the Japanese, ran for three series! Also missing was the role played by very young children in getting information and food in and out of the Aryan side of Poland.However, not enough people know enough about this dark period of history so Uprising should be seen."
Solid but inncurate
fraulein | Edison, NJ | 11/16/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I didn't understand what was with the scene in the church. Yes, the organ music makes the deaths of people jumping out of burning buildings more compelling but I don't see the connection between the Latin songs and organ music. And what was with Hippler? I could not understand him or the proganda movies he makes. I really didn't think the movie needed him. Where were the gentiles when you needed them? In real life, they weren't invisible and took an active role against the Germans. Why would they show Pole visitors to the underground headquarters when they suddenly disappear? Except for the guy who gets threatened at gunpoint in the sewer but I don't remember him coming with the other visitors. Why would the gentile Poles visit the tunnels without helping them? I think they must have been stupid to leave a simple plot detail unfinished. But the acting was good. It was pretty funny that Stroop likes his table so much. And it is a good thing that they they hold on to their honor no matter what. It was pretty compelling showing the disaster realistically. It was pure awe when I saw how much the ghetto looked like Ground Zero after so much destruction. But why not a more accurate depiction of the Gentile Poles?"