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Critic's Pick

'Son of Saul' is a terrifying glimpse inside Auschwitz-Birkenau

Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times Film Critic

With the Oscars just a few weeks away, it may be time to catch up with "Son of Saul." One of the favorites to take the foreign language film award, it is a remarkable piece of cinema that demands to be seen whether it wins or not.

A drama set in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, "Son of Saul" is an immersive experience of the most disturbing kind, an unwavering vision of a particular kind of hell. No matter how many Holocaust films you've seen, you've not seen one like this.

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A confidant, even audacious first feature by Hungarian director László Nemes and winner of the grand jury prize at Cannes, the film completely avoids special pleading and sentimentality. Instead, it combines aesthetic choices and cinematic techniques to give viewers a terrifying fictional glimpse of what it might have been like to be inside that hellish place.

kenneth.turan@latimes.com

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Movie recommendations from critic Kenneth Turan and other reviewers.

Anomalisa

Sad, beautiful, the wittiest film of the year; directors Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman, using stop-motion animation and working from a script Kaufman originally wrote and staged a decade ago, transform the comedy of quiet desperation into an occasion for serious pleasure. (Michael Phillips) R.

The Big Short

Adam McKay, with the help of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, has made a very funny film about a very serious situation, 2008's global financial collapse. (Kenneth Turan) R.

Bridge of Spies

Steven Spielberg's superior directing skills and fine acting from Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance do the trick in this espionage thriller about a successful insurance lawyer who has to defend a Soviet spy and then attempt to trade him to the Russians for one of ours. (Kenneth Turan) PG-13.

Brooklyn

Impeccably directed by John Crowley, feelingly adapted by Nick Hornby from Colm Tóibín's fine novel and blessed with heart-stopping work from star Saoirse Ronan and the rest of the cast, "Brooklyn" is about love and heartache, loneliness and intimacy, what home means and how we achieve it. (Kenneth Turan) PG-13.

Carol

Impeccably acted by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two women in love, with an exquisite look captured by cinematographer Ed Lachman, "Carol" has been made under the complete and total control of Todd Haynes, a director who always knows what he's doing. (Kenneth Turan) R.

Creed

In the hands of director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan, what is nominally a spinoff of the celebrated "Rocky" series plays like a spiritual remake of the 1976 film that retells the original story in the kind of involving way one would not have thought possible. (Kenneth Turan) PG-13.

The Good Dinosaur

It is antic and unexpected as well as homiletic, rife with subversive elements, wacky critters and some of the most beautiful landscapes ever seen in a computer-animated feature. (Kenneth Turan) PG.

Room

Brie Larson excels in a film able to give full weight to both sides of the emotional equation as it tells the story of a young woman imprisoned for years in a tiny shed and the young son who was born to her there and knows no other world. (Kenneth Turan) R.

Spotlight

The saga of how the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for uncovering sexual abuse by Catholic priests, the film is mightily impressive not only because of the importance of the story it tells but also because of how much effort and skill went into bringing it to the screen. (Kenneth Turan) R.

Trumbo

The film paints an engaging portrait of a left-wing crusader toiling in one of Hollywood's most shameful eras, managing to re-create both the glamour and the oppressive mood of post-World War II America. (Rebecca Keegan) R.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 05, 2016, in the Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Terrifying glimpse of hell" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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