War brews over Warsaw in 1939, and while life is still running its course, the Germans are slowly beginning to make their presence felt, with Hitler secretly preparing for the German invasion of Poland. Under those circumstances, the young couple of Jan and Antonina Zabinski continue their daily routine as owners and keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, but soon, as German Luftwaffe's Stukas hammer the Polish capital, their life's work together with the city, will turn to ashes. However, with the zoo liquidated for the war effort and many of its animals tragically perished, what was once an animals' zoo, will now serve as a sanctuary where Antonina, the humanist veterinarian, and Jan can hide the persecuted Polish Jews in plain sight until safe houses are found. That was Jan and Antonina's formidable, yet perilous plan, who regardless of the consequences, refused to wither before the Nazi menace, took matters into their own hands and sheltered 300 Jews under the Germans' noses.Written by
Keeping it PG-13 makes it more powerful emotionally than seeing everything
I enjoyed The Zookeeper's Wife and would recommend it to most audiences. Skillful direction by Niki Caro, excellent sets and costumes, a slightly washed-out look to the cinematography which nonetheless has a full range of color, and a capable cast. The story is based on the actions of the owners of the Warsaw Zoo, who saved the lives of more than three hundred Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
Nonetheless, the performance of Jessica Chastain is the single most important factor in the film. Unlike many American actors, she understands that a Polish woman of the 1940s does not look, move, or carry her features like a contemporary American. So fully does Miss Chastain inhabit her character that I never had the sense of an actress making choices.
The film is a bit long and a bit slow, like most films today, but not to a damaging extent. I particularly admired the way that the official from the Berlin Zoo who becomes a Nazi officer, well played by Daniel Bruhl, has certain scruples and personal moral standards although he embraces the Nazi philosophy. He's a villain, but not a cardboard villain, and part of the suspense of the film is waiting to see which lines he will cross and which he won't.
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