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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 77:59)
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese
  Extras
  • 2 Audio commentary
  • Featurette
  • Behind the scenes footage

Uprising

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 153 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

You have to wonder sometimes if there is anything about World War II that is unknown, if there are any stories left to tell. With the release of Uprising, it looks like there just might be.

When the armed forces of the Third Reich invaded Poland in September 1939, it officially signified the start of World War II, even if some of the Allies didn’t realise at the time. Being totally unprepared, the Polish people were no match for Hitler’s might, and there was no help forthcoming from anywhere outside of Poland.

The Germans, using the Jews as the scapegoats to bolster German pride and nationalism, rounded up Polish Jews, and divided the city of Warsaw into two, the Aryan side, and the side that became known as the Warsaw Ghetto. Actually calling it a ‘side’ is a little generous. The Warsaw ghetto was an area of land less than one square mile, yet, incredibly, it housed 400,000 Jews. That is an almost incomprehensible figure and I don’t think anyone but those who were there could even begin to know the hardships endured.

Life for the Jews in this ghetto was unbelievably tough, violent and utterly oppressive with starvation, typhoid and numerous other diseases an everyday reality. In 1942, the Germans began rounding up the Jews and sending them off to the ‘camps’. Those left behind soon learned what was really happening to their loved ones at Treblinka, and decided that their choice was either to sit back and await their turn, or take the Nazis by surprise and fight. As someone once said, “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”

The resistance took the Germans by surprise, and what started as a rag tag bunch of troublemakers quickly formed into a dedicated, organised and successful resistance movement.

The Germans, being heavily armed and reliant on propaganda for morale, hit back harder and harder, but each time the Jewish Fighting Organisation managed to resist the onslaught. Of course, no matter how determined and dedicated most freedom fighters may be, they were not totally invincible, and losses were suffered. As the unceasing German pressure began to finally create cracks in the resistance army, the race was on to get out of Warsaw before the Germans finally managed to wipe them out once and for all. The Jews had withstood the onslaught for over a month, which was longer than the Polish Army had resisted, and longer too than the French Army when their turn came.

Uprising is based on real events and real people. No doubt some liberties have been taken in the name of art and film making, but essentially the mini-series is faithful to the real events. There are a number of familiar faces such as David Schwimmer (Friends), Hank Azaria (The Simpsons), Donald Sutherland, Cary Elwes and a typically nasty and unsettling Jon Voight.

The story rolls along at a great pace once characters and mood are set. There are plenty of action sequences, explosions, guns and bombs, and just a hint or two of romance, but thankfully this is underplayed. The characters are well developed (although their forced accents are not always convincing), the dialogue is occasionally clichéd, but the wonderful costumes and sets make up for the faults.

While this story doesn’t really break any new ground when it comes to World War II storytelling, it is a solid effort and engrossing with a genuine story behind the suspense and action. It begins to dispel the notion that the Jews just submitted and let the Nazis do as they liked. While on this surface this may appear to be true, underneath, it is a very different story.

  Video
Contract

This is another fine looking transfer as you would expect of a recently filmed, big budget mini-series. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. The image is clear and sharp with good detail. Colours are somewhat earthy and muted in most scenes, deliberately, to enhance the oppressive and morbid feel of the film. There are no problems with the colouring, and skin tones are fine. There is little to no evidence of grain, and there are virtually no marks or specks such as dirt, dust or scratches.

Black levels are very good and shadow detail is essentially fine. There are many scenes filmed in dark tunnels or at night, where the level of detail drops just a little, but as this is a film that deals with people whose lives depended on not being seen, this is quite acceptable.

There is no evidence of noise or shimmer, and the only real disruption is the layer change that is placed between scenes at 77:59.

  Audio
Contract

There are three Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks to choose from, being English, Italian, and French. It is a very well thought out mix that makes smart use of surround sound. Being a film with lots of Germans with guns, there are plenty of opportunities for the rear speakers to do their stuff, and they do so nicely. Explosions are deep and solid and the subwoofer gets a nice workout.

The rear speakers are also used for some of the classical music score, and some ambient sounds. Most dialogue is placed in the centre speaker and is clear and audible, though a little on the quiet side. There is some panning and separation of sounds such as trucks and planes and other occasional sound effects. They all sound quite real and not overdone.

There are a few scenes when audio synch appears to be a little out, but these seem to be few and far between.

  Extras
Contract

Phew! As if the feature itself isn’t long enough at two and a half hours, there are two audio commentaries, one from the director, Jon Avnet, and another from the cast and crew. The commentary from Avnet is a very chatty affair, and while he does give away some director tips and secrets, much of what he has to say relates to the story on screen with regard to certain characters, the hardships they faced, and their fighting spirit. Naturally after 153 minutes, there is little left to be said and the pauses do get a little longer and more frequent. He also seems rather fascinated with the idea of relating to the Warsaw Jews by using September 11 as a reference.

The cast and crew commentary sees Hank Azaria, David Schwimmer and Jon Voight in a room together, with comments from Leelee Sobieski spliced in. For a commentary featuring four people there are a surprising number of large gaps. What they do relate though is informative and insightful enough, and it is David Schwimmer who surprises the most, showing himself to be a very intelligent, sensitive and sincere actor. The other actors are also interesting and have a warmth to them, but Schwimmer shines.

There is also a screen entitled Cast and Crew, which is simply one screen of credits listing the main cast and a few of the crew. Gripping!

Disc two houses a couple of nice extras that are educational, informative and interesting without being overly biased. The first is Breaking Down the Walls – Behind-the-Scenes Documentary. Lasting for 18:22, it includes comments from various cast members, behind-the-scenes footage (naturally!) and comments from crew regarding the need to tell the story without being overdramatic. There is also some nice stuff about set design and costuming.

The other is slightly longer, the Resistance – Historical Documentary that at just under half an hour takes a deeper look at the people who were a part of the uprising, with people who were actually there interviewed, including one or two central characters. It also takes a look at the role of the camps, the main German figures such as Goebbles and General Stroop, who was charged with removing the Jews from the ghetto. It includes quite a lot of vintage and archival footage that is of poor quality, as you would expect, but is an essential and fascinating inclusion. Again there is a lot of input from the actors, plus other historians, writers and Holocaust survivors. As long as you are not expecting some in-depth pictorial essay on the second World War then this is a nice extra.

  Overall  
Contract

I guess there really are still stories about World War II that need to be told, and Uprising is another that does it quite well. There is no doubting the commitment of the cast and the crew, and the sets, costumes, and action sequences are fantastic. It helps to redress the misconception that the Jews failed to put up any resistance to the Nazis, but most importantly it highlights the certainty that this was a truly dark and sad chapter in human history, one that hopefully we will never see again.


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      And I quote...
    "A slightly different angle on World War II, telling the story of the 1943 Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto. Inspirational stuff… "
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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