The Boy in the Striped PajamasDirected by: Mark Herman Cast: Asa Butterfield, Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis, Jack Scanlon Running Time: 1 hr 35 mins Rating: PG-13
Opens in Chicago on November 7. Opens in Portland on November 14.
Plot: Based on the John Boyne novel, and set during World War II, this is the story of Bruno (Butterfield), an 8-year-old and son of the commander in charge of a concentration camp. Bruno secretly explores the area and finds a friendship with a Jewish boy (Scanlon) who is inside the camp.
Who’s It For? I looked it up ... and there are officially infinity different films about WWII. Just amazing. What's more impressive is that this is another original way to tell the horrendous story. If you are looking for a way to introduce your teenagers to this awful time in history, this is your best shot.
Expectations: I knew it was set in WWII and that's where my knowledge ended. Though I was able to predict it might have something to do with a young kid getting ready for bed. Before you call me an idiot, let's just decide I was busy and hadn't seen the postures yet.
Actors: Asa Butterfield as Bruno: He's almost too precious. But I said almost. Butterfield recently was in Son of Rambow though I don't recall his performance. This one, you won't forget. Running around in his knickers, he's oblivious to the atrocities that occur at the camp. I don't imagine we'll be hearing from Butterfield years from now (like when Dakota Fanning started out) but for this role, he is perfect. Score: 7
David Thewlis as Father: The man of the house and commanding officer for the German concentration camp isn't simply a villain and left at that. He's not the good guy like as Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter flicks but I did find I had a reluctant compassion for him. He is part of a machine as many were during that time. Score: 6
Vera Famiga as Mother: Her absolute best scene was just after there house keeper Pavel (David Hayman) fixed up Bruno after a scrape. It takes her forever to work up the strength to say 'thank you." The only thing better would have been if she'd said nothing at all. Score: 7
Jack Scanlon as Shmuel: He's going to break your heart. They found the perfect little kid to play a young Jewish boy in a concentration camp. I only wish they would have played more games back and forth through and over the fence, because every time they did, it got a little misty in the room. Score: 8
Talking: The brother-sister bickering is spot on between Bruno and Maria (Cara Horgan). Their dynamic is fantastic with her being over-the-top obedient and Bruno's head being lost in the clouds. And anytime Father uttered a line like "those people aren't really people," it stung, instead of feeling overdone. Score: 7
Sights Everything looks perfectly dreary when it's not seen through the eyes of Bruno. And the propaganda film about concentration camps being lovely places to stay was especially tough to take. Score: 7
Sounds: Forgettable. There isn't a definitive moment where the score of the film took Pajamas to a higher level. There had to be a Shawshank Redemption moment in there that was missed.
As soon as I realized what the story was about, I was hooked. The sweet innocence of a child seeing the horrors of concentration camps is the perfect way to tell another WWII story. It could be seen as a sort of companion piece to Life is Beautiful it's just oblivious in a different way.
Having a father turn into a villain, having a mother lose her mental grip and a sister who seems utterly programmed is hard enough for Bruno. But then, in the painful climatic end (seriously, you will be gripping your seats and potentially screaming at the screen) it's taken to a new level of pain.
That pain is one of the few flaws I have with The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Suddenly, I feel like I am being taught a lesson, whereas the first hour and a half I was able to see a new experience. Those are completely different feelings. This film will stick with me for a long time, though I don't think I needed that final vibe to make sure it happened. Final Score: 7/10