Defiance in the Ghetto
One minute the centre of Warsaw was a thriving community, a bustling market place with happy children running along the cobbles, the next it had become the Ghetto with almost half a million Jews forced to live there behind barbwire barricades. Whilst some members of the Jewish community such as Adam Czerniakow (Donald Sutherland) believe that working with the Nazis is their best chance of surviving this horror others such as Mordechai Anielewicz (Hank Azaria) believe that they must fight back. Others such as Yitzhak Zuckerman (David Schwimmer) and Tosia Altman (Leelee Sobieski) agree with Mordechai and despite knowing that by rebelling their signing their death notice bravely lead the rebellion.
I am by no means an expert on the Holocaust and whilst I have watched a fair few movies which cover the Holocaust I would not call myself an expert, but I am someone who is familiar with them. As such when I say that big swathes of "Uprising", the Jon Avnet mini-series/ TV movie, is familiar it is not being derogatory but me saying at times it delivers scenes and events which you will recognize from other Holocaust movies.
Now you may say why watch "Uprising" if it is familiar to other movies and it comes down to something which is said early on in the movie. I do not remember the exact words but they amount to how can a moral person maintain a moral way of life when they are in an immoral situation and so we get to see how various people live. We see how Czerniakow works with the Nazis but realizes whilst some may survive his way his initial belief that this was the best way is eroded as he sees the lies and how he is being used. But then we see Anielewicz who believes in Jewish honour and that means fighting the Nazis and dying defending what is theirs. We also see this with others and each case has its own aspect of conflict such as Altman who has her family to think about whilst putting herself in danger by sneaking out of the Ghetto on various missions. It is this look at the situation of how people tried to live and keep their own sense of moral compass is what makes the movie.
Of course there is more to it than that as we have plenty of danger as the Jewish resistance start taking to the fight to the Nazis whilst we have various close encounters such as Altman being forced in to a shed and made to strip. It is this side where director Jon Avnet does well to control the opportunity to over do the emotional manipulation and allowing the natural power of a situation, such as children being marched on to the train to Treblinka to hit home. Avnet even manages to introduce a sort of touch of humour as we have the Nazis filming propaganda with Czerniakow forced to play a content Jew just going about his business with a giant menorah on his desk dripping wax all over his papers.
What this all boils down to is that "Uprising" is what it should be; educational, entertaining but also hard hitting. My only issue is one of length and whilst there was no way the story could work in the confines of 90 minutes it feels drawn out at 177 minutes.