Ben Kingsley is such a phenomenal chameleon, he even becomes Miklos Horthy, regent of the kingdom of Hungary between the two world wars.
Kingsley and Mark Schmidt, writer and director of “Walking with the Enemy,” together succeed in illuminating the chaotic history of the few savage months in 1944 — near the end of World War II — that resulted in the extermination of half a million Hungarian Jews, gypsies and gays.
An adventure film “inspired by a true story,” it is faithful enough to history to bring alive horrible memories to those among the few lucky survivors who were children at the time.
“Admiral” Horthy (of a landlocked nation) resisted the German Holocaust campaign even while Hungary was an ally in the war. Finally, the Nazi takeover of the country and the arrival of Adolph Eichman (Charles Hubbell) removed Horthy from power, and the last obstacle to mass extermination.
The film follows the story of Elek, a young Jew (Jonas Armstrong), who disguises himself as an SS officer, and fights the enemy from inside their ranks. Hannah Tointon is a standout in the large cast as Elek’s ally and love interest.
Schmidt — making his debut as a producer-director — manages to sustain the suspense of the main story as well as provide detailed explanation of the history surrounding it. The movie has aspects of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Bastards” — without the laughs.
The attempt to unify the diction of the multinational cast — portraying Hungarians, Germans, Swiss and others — into something like Hungarian-accented English is not successful, and becomes a mild distraction.
Walking with the Enemy ★★★
Starring Ben Kingsley, Jonas Armstrong, Hannah Tointon
Written by Mark Schmidt, Kenny Golde
Directed by Mark Schmidt
Running time 2 hours, 4 minutes