Film Review: Walking with the Enemy

A great historical story in life is turned into an utterly pedestrian war film.

Inspired by the real-life hero Pinchas Tibor Rosenbaum, Walking with the Enemy centers around Elek Cohen (handsome Jonas Armstrong), a Hungarian Jew who rescued his people from the Nazis during World War II. Cohen was originally sentenced to a labor camp and managed to escape, only to find that his home had been taken over by Christians, and his family sent to a concentration camp. He manages to find the girl he loves, Hannah (Hannah Tointon), and joins her at the "Glass House" in Budapest, a diplomatic safe zone run by a Swiss diplomat (William Hope). When Hannah is nearly raped by two Nazi officers, she and Elek manage to kill them and he and a friend subsequently use their uniforms to infiltrate enemy quarters and round up Jews for safety rather than certain death.

Working from a pedestrian script by Kenny Golde, director Mark Schmidt has fashioned a film to match. The Scarlet Pimpernel-like exploits of Cohen should make for exciting onscreen stuff, but so uninspired is the handling here that it lacks anything like the compelling sweep of, say, Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. The film doesn't stint from showing Nazi brutality and heartlessness and the body count may be devastatingly high, but so calculated and predictable are the events shown, always accompanied by a thick aural soup of lousy "stirring" music, that a certain indifferent resistance may set in with the viewer, who might well dismiss this as "just another Holocaust movie." The screenplay not only takes liberties with history—like the fact that Rosenbaum didn't use a Nazi uniform but that of the Arrow Cross, a pro-Hitler Hungarian faction—but is pocked with anachronisms, as when a war-weary character says the one line that should be forever outlawed from usage, "I'm done."

The characters are uniform cardboard clichés, starting with Elek, whose saintly single-mindedness seems just too good to be real, and at times even annoying when Hannah savagely attacks the corpse of her rapist and, ever-humane, he holds her back, soothing her with "It's all right." The fact that she has been molested and her father just shot makes you think, "No, it's not. Just let her have at him, you jerk!" Earlier, he infuriatingly spares the life of another murderous Nazi, and at one point, when told he simply can't save all the Jews, he gives one of those phony humble-savior-of-the-people responses: "I'm just doing what every man should do."

One of the most villainous Nazis, Colonel Skorzeny, was noted for a famous fencing scar, the obviousness of which probably made the filmmakers jump for joy, and Burn Gorman indeed plays him as Evil Incarnate, looking like a disfigured Willem Dafoe. Ben Kingsley (with a fake schnoz) is in his full tiresome Great Man mode as the well-meaning Regent Horthy, remarking in a near- impenetrable accent, "What is there to contemplate? Stalin murders his own people, Hitler wants to purify the world. Both crazed supremacists. How is one to choose?"

Click here for cast and crew information.