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.
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.
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.