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Review: Heavy-handed history in WWII drama 'Walking With the Enemy'

Cliche war-movie storytelling hampers the true story behind "Walking With the Enemy."
The only thing missing in "Walking With the Enemy" is a sense of history made real.

A determined historical sweep masks a small-minded bid for easy outrage and heartstrings-pulling in the schematic World War II drama "Walking With the Enemy."

Set in 1944, when the war was essentially over for the Nazis but their reign of terror in occupied territories was still going strong, the movie focuses on the efforts of a young, displaced Hungarian Jew named Elek (Jonas Armstrong) to find his family after escaping from a camp, which turned into a concerted effort to save many Hungarian Jews.

Though "inspired" by the true story of a rabbi's son who used the uniform of a Nazi officer to act out deportations of families that were secretly rescue missions, this film from writer Kenny Golde and director Mark Schmidt slaps a clichéd war-movie dressing over everything so that what should have felt heart-poundingly incredible comes off as heavy-handed, ludicrous and unintentionally queasy. Elek's repeated Nazi ruse starts to seem farcical, while the incessant action-edited rhythms of Jews being shot feels exploitative.

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Shoved in are dull, great-actor-as-real-guy historical exposition scenes with Ben Kingsley as Hungary's beleaguered leader Regent Horthy, not to mention a cookie-cutter romance between Elek and a sweet-faced woman (Hannah Tointon) that allows "Walking With the Enemy" to breathlessly cover all the bases of ready-made uplift: courage, sacrifice and love. The only thing missing is a sense of history made real.

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"Walking With the Enemy."

Rated: PG-13 for war violence.

Running time: 2 hours, 6 minutes.

Playing: At AMC Burbank Town Center 8; Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Towne Center 5, Encino; Regal L.A. Live Stadium 14, Los Angeles.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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