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Walking with the Enemy | Review

Walk to Remember: Schmidt’s Debut Sincere and Gawky

Mark Schmidt Walking with the EnemyDirector Mark Schmidt attempts to recount an obscure chronicle of WWII heroism to generally awkward effect, though, despite a multitude of distracting and poorly manufactured instances of laughable manipulation, manages to ratchet up sufficient tension to hold our attention. Using a wild variety of Canadian, American, and UK actors, Schmidt’s got a hodgepodge of English speakers trying their best mildly accented Hungarian, often to dubious effect, while a series of poorly edited sequences belies its rather strained budget. A daunting amount of better made films recounting the period flounces the necessity of Schmidt’s picture, even as Walking with the Enemy does depict an account well worth honoring, but it’s a film that will only be cannibalized by the memory of stronger features, bringing to mind, among other title, the similar feel of the 2012 Macedonian film, The Third Half.

While Hungary’s leader, Regent Horthy (Ben Kingsley), has managed to work around Hitler’s demand to deport his Jewish citizens due to their alignment with the dictator (which gave them sovereignty), his stalling was forced to an end in 1944 as allied forces encroached. As Horthy attempts to make a secret agreement with the Russians, Nazi heavyweights micromanage Hungary’s deportation, with none other than Adolf Eichmann (Charles Hubbell) and Colonel Skorzeny (Burn Gorman) leading the charge.

A first round sees all the able bodied Jewish men transported to a labor camp, but Elek Cohen (Jonas Armstrong) escapes, only to find that all of the Jewish women and children have been deported mysteriously, without anyone knowing where for certain. Other Hungarian citizens have taken over many of the Jewish homes as their own. But Elek’s lady love, Hannah (Hannah Tointon) is still around because her uncle works at the Swiss Embassy, known as “The Glass House.” Eichmann has approved about 700,000+ Jews with Swiss relations to emigrate to safety, but Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz (William Hope) is printing and distributing as many as he can. An act of bravery helps Elek obtain some SS uniforms (in reality, these were Arrow Cross uniforms, changed, like the actual language the characters to speak, to ensure easier comprehension, it seems), which he uses to help bring hundreds to safe quarters rather than being executed.

There is absolutely no doubt that the account Schmidt (along with the eight other writers credited as additional screenwriters) brings to the screen isn’t commendable and worthy of mass distribution, based on the real heroics of Pinchas Tibor Rosenbaum. And perhaps there will never be an end to the cinematic accounts we’ll see from WWII, but Walking with the Enemy will undoubtedly try your patience, especially during the overgeneralized and stilted set up. While it picks up steam in its latter half, ending with customary title cards explaining what happened to each character (splayed over a laughable slideshow of film stills rather than the real life counterparts), Schmidt continually falls into war time contrivances in a seeming quest for cheap tears, such as a reversed Sophie’s Choice moment in the latter half which could have been much more powerful if it had been used less blatantly.

Heavy accents aside, it’s hard to fault the supporting cast, including Kingsley, whose name lends considerable weight to the lineup. As Elek Cohen, Irish actor Jonas Armstrong’s greatest feat is making us forget he shouldn’t be speaking English in handful of tense sequences. Tim Williams’ distracting score paired with some questionably edited sequences lends the film a rather cheap pallor, and even when seemingly operating at its best, the end result is distractingly clunky.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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