Dir: Rose Bosch
Starring: Jean Reno, Mélanie Laurent
I along with many filmgoers can safely say that we’ve seen our fair share of “holocaust” or “concentration camp” movies over the past decade or so and going back even further obviously with classics such as SCHINDLER’S LIST. I must say though that while starting off a little poorly in the first act in terms of scriptwriting and the overall setting, I think THE ROUND-UP was pretty decent for a film depicting an aspect of French WWII history that most would probably have never heard about. It was in the second and third acts of the film where it really took off into some very deep and frightening storytelling and all of it was very real.
The film itself starts off with a Jewish family living in the area of Montmarte, France (originally from Poland) during the initial occuptaion of Nazi Germany. This family become the main characters as we watch from their perspective how Nazi soldiers turned France’s own police force against their people rounding all the citizens of Jewish decent out of Paris and into country-side camps. We also meet several other smaller characters such as a young mother and an elderly couple who begin to suspect that there might be a more fiendish method behind what is happening at these camps outside the city.
The story then takes us to the famous Velodrome d’Hiver (a bicycle racing stadium) in Paris where over 13,000 Jews including some of our main characters were taken before they were shipped to the countryside and finally put on trains to the notorious Auschwitz death camp where only twenty or so people ever returned of all those thousands. At this stadium we meet a young Protestant nurse played by the beautiful and talented Melanie Laurent (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS) and the head doctor played by Jean Reno (THE PROFESSIONAL) as both of them are overwhelmed by the chaos and sickness of everyone who has been rounded up. As you can imagine, it’s a pretty dreary flick.
I’d say that the number one most positive aspect of the film are the performances from the child actors as well as Jean Reno and Melanie Laurent. Melanie’s role as the young non-Jewish nurse is incredible sympathetic and enduring as she tries to make sense of everything that is happening while doing whatever she can to help these people. It’s a terrific role for such an up and coming actress and she plays it wonderfully. As you can imagine, Jean Reno also gives a terrific performance as the helpless doctor who desperately wants to help his people but can’t in the conditions he has or the limited resources. Overall I was very blown away by the two. The film also featured some amazing visual FX shots such as inside the Velodrome d’Hiver which made you feel like you were really there with everyone as well as a very appropriate score.
That being said though, the rest of the film as I mentioned before was just plain decent. As I watched it there was nothing that really grabbed me saying “Oh, I haven’t seen that before!” and it was far to drawn out and boring at times for me to even care. On top of that there were also several moments in the film where it bordered on ridiculous such as the random moments depicting Adolf Hitler doing a number of really stupid acts that I won’t spoil for those who still want to see the film. Also during the scenes where we are supposed to be watching sick children in the harsh conditions of the Velodrome d’Hiver and Paris streets, I honestly didn’t see the “sickness” or “despair” amongst the children themselves. All of them looked well fed and generally healthy which made all those particular scenes very hard to buy hence there was very little emotional impact on myself as a viewer.
Perhaps it’s just that SCHINDLER’S LIST has been and always will be the true depiction of the crimes against the Jews. Everyone who has seen it knows how far Spielberg went to show the utter disgusting and hideous conditions that these people were forced to live in not to mention the constant threat of death from Nazi soldiers. This film however didn’t step it up at all in terms of the tension filled atmosphere or horrific living conditions, it was just plain blah at times. It’s pretty much a case of “been there, done that” and “is that it?”.
Overall it was a decent effort but I think writer/director Rose Bosch could have really stepped up a few aspects such as the mood, the overall setting as well as truly depicting just how horrible the conditions of the time were. I didn’t feel the desperateness of the rounded-up Jews like I have in other stories or films. Plus all those silly scenes with Hitler and other pointless moments really didn’t help the film move along very well either. In the end it is worth seeing for the terrific performances of Reno and Laurent plus some beautiful effects work but beyond that, average at best in my opinion.
The Australian DVD
Audio/Video: The video is a 16:9 widescreen presentation. I liked the picture quality, it was a nice transfer. Audio is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1. I liked this as well, it was easy to listen to and no off spots or quiet areas.
Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.