60/60 Review #23: Schindler's List.

This is my third Spielberg film I've reviewed for this 60/60 List. The first one, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, didn't sit super positively with me. Next was Saving Private Ryan, a film that I did enjoy it quite a lot. Now we're up to what is probably considered Spielberg's best film. But did I perceive it as such?

Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) is a member of the Nazi party who also acts as a war profiteer. He starts hiring Jews to work in his factory, getting a lot of help from a man named Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley). But when another Nazi named Amon Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) shows up and begins committing cold-blooded murders on the Jewish population of the ghetto, Schindler starts to become more and more sympathetic toward the Jews. And when he gets word that they're going to be sent to their doom at Auschwitz, he puts together a list of names that he can save by bringing them to another factory in his hometown.

The acting is of course fantastic. This is probably one of Liam Neeson's finest performances. Ben Kingsley was the most likable in the movie. Ralph Fiennes as the crazy Nazi was the most fascinating. He's completely psychotic, sniping Jews from his balcony just because he feels like it or gets upset. But at the same time, he works along with Schindler, letting him keep his "workers" and even (somewhat) helping to have Schindler's workers safe from Auschwitz. He's still a total evil bastard, though. And the way everyone is acted is superb. That being said, however...

I honestly don't know how I feel about this film. Obviously I can tell you it was masterfully made. Mostly in black and white, there are only a few segments in color. The film is bookended in color, and there are a couple parts in the middle--some candles and the girl in the red dress, specifically. So the cinematography is great, the acting is top notch, etc. So why can't I figure out how to talk about this movie?

There really is no "plot," per se. There's a story, but up until the last hour of the film (in a 3+ hour film), the story is more like a random set of events that sometimes include overarching characters. You see a lot of things happening to characters whose names we might not even learn. The film is more interested in giving us a window into the lives of these particular Jews in this place rather than giving us any kind of heavy plot. It's just... these are Jews; these are Nazis; this is World War II; watch what happens between them. Then in the last half or so of the movie, we start to get things happening in the sense that the story starts to become more focused and there's a clear idea of what's going to happen and/or where the film is headed. It's no longer just Nazis killing Jews and Schindler making money.

I'm just going to wrap this up, because this is one of the toughest reviews I've had to figure out and write for this project thus far. I really enjoyed the ending that showed us the real survivors. Like I said, the movie is masterfully made and has great acting and fine characters (I know they were real people, but still). I just guess I was partially bored despite all that. It's one of those "It's not my cup of tea, but I still enjoyed it" kind of things that puts me in an awkward place. So here's where I'm at: It's a great film, but I didn't love it. However, I certainly didn't hate it, and I more than merely "liked it." For the sake of this review, I'm starting with a score at the top due to the film's quality, but I'm going to drop it down a notch because I didn't love it. I guess.

A Keanu 'Whoa'


  1. [Nb - i did get your email and will respond ASAP but, alas, I cannot go on facebook when in my workplace... which is the vast majority of the day]

    Reg. Schindlers List. You say the end "we start to get things happening in the sense that the story starts to become more focused and there's a clear idea of what's going to happen".

    got to admit, one of the strongest things about this film is , for the majority of the film, how Schindler is not clearly identified as good or bad - and, so i read, that remains the truth. Schindler was a buisness man and he hired these workers - yes - saving them from the concentration camps, but also it was cheap labour. The one scene when Neeson is taking parts of his car off and falling-apart: "i could've saved more" etc. is complete fiction and, unfortunately, does clarify that Schindler was indeed a 'good guy'. Spielberg, with this one scene, seems to go back on the ambiguity of the "good" and "bad" characters in that Fiennes, though completely bad, is humanised a little as you can see he is deeply attracted to the Jewish worker and this is a conflict within him. Schindler appears ambiguous throughout... until that scene.

  2. I love this movie. I enjoy it and get more from it every time I watch it. I think you're right, the cinematography and style of the black and white with bits of color do make for a particularly stylized movie. I really like the choices Speilberg made - in contrast to Simon. I usually don't like it when a director fails to take a point of view, and however right or wrong it might be, Speilberg always takes a side.

  3. Simon: I suppose I like the ambiguity to a degree, but I do like it when there is a choice made. For instance, Riddick is one of my favorite fictional characters, and (at least in Pitch Black) he's totally ambiguous on whether he's good or evil. But there is a certain point, at the end, where a path is taken. And there is character development throughout the film, as well. If Schindler had just stayed ambiguous, not taken a path, and not shown growth as a character, I wouldn't have liked him as much.

    Jess: So, yeah, I agree with you on that front :) .

  4. I only saw parts of this when I was a kid and I didn't really comprehend anything at the time. Definitely need to watch this in earnest sometime soon. Nice review Nick!

  5. Great review - really clarifies my feelings toward the film. I sat, transfixed, as I watched it, but it really is a plotless film.


  6. No plot? Really? This thing is drowning in plot. Maybe not plot in the sense that there's an end goal someone is trying to meet, but there are still so many layers of story. Schindler doesn't just start get sympathetic in the last hour, he gradually gets there. The scene with the little girl in red is what starts it, Goeth helps, and by the time he's dousing the train cars in water, he's well on his way to saving people. And then there's other things, like the small thing with Goeth and his Jewish servant, Schindler and his wife, and the Jews that the movie focuses on, if only for a second. There is sooooooooo much to this movie. I can understand how some people may be a bit perplexed, but I'd say watch it again. It's one of those films that I think just gets better and better.

  7. There's a difference between plot and story. I was careful to choose my words in that instance while writing this review. Just because it has one doesn't necessarily mean it has the other.


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