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Schindler’s List

Year: 1993
Studio: Universal
Director: Steven Spielberg
Producer: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Steve Zaillian/Thomas Keneally
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes

After 17 years as the most successful filmmaker alive, Steven Spielberg still wasn't happy. Apparently hungry for the respect of his peers who'd perhaps dismissed him with a sneer as 'that Indiana Jones guy' his whole career, he looked nothing short of relieved when he mounted the stage to accept his Best Picture and Best Director Oscars, declaring it like a drink after a long drought.

Based on Australian Thomas Keneally's novel, it tells the story of Nazi officer Oskar Schindler (played with elegant grace by Neeson) who finds his conscience during the worst of the Jewish withchunts of the Second World War and goes about saving dozens of them from the death camps. While the Nazis round up the Jewish population of Europe and lock them away, Schindler is just one of those who enjoy the spoils left behind, settling into a luxurious Jewish family's house after they're moved to a hovel in the days before the final solution.

I don't remember a pivotal moment where Schindler decides he works for a murderous regime and has to act, but after viewing the abhorrent treatment prisoners are subject to he hatches a scheme to start a war munitions factory, employing as many Jews as he can as a cover to keep them from being sent to the concentration camps. The casual brutality of his party is given flesh by the breathlessly evil camp officer Amon Goeth (Fiennes), the apex of a carnival of terrors whose idea of fun is to pick off prisoners wandering the yard with his high powered rifle while waiting for his breakfast.

As he did with 1998's Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg was the first to tackle the World War II subject of Jewish persecution in the post-blockbuster age, and it will make you as horrified and hopeful as you'd expect from such an accomplished director, even if the last few scenes do threaten to tip over into melodrama.

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