Pact With the Devil

This exceedingly graphic Holocaust drama concerns the Auschwitz Sonderkommando, a special squad of Jewish prisoners who, in exchange for better food and a few extra months of life, escorted their fellow Jews into the gas chambers, then cremated their corpses. It was a pact made with the devil. Actor Tim Blake Nelson wrote and directed this harrowing, fact-based story (based on his own play) that concerns the efforts of several kommando members to save one young girl, as if somehow this will erase their complicity in the deaths of thousands of others. Nelson has directed his actors--including David Arquette, Steve Buscemi and Daniel Benzali (no, this isn't a joke)--to speak in David Mamet-like cadence, all short, choppy sentences and staccato rhythms. It's a terrible mistake. The film highlights the worst in human nature but also raises important moral questions, forcing viewers to question what they might have done in similar circumstances. Russell Lee Fine's camera work is exceptional. He shows us what hell must look like.

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