In the World War II drama Walking with the Enemy, everything unrelated to the actual war feels like a nostalgic grandpa’s rose-tinted recollections of the old country.
Times are tough, of course, but the family dinners and young love in the air prove idyllic. Everything else in Mark Schmidt’s based-on-a-true-story thriller feels like a lot of big ideas crammed into a small movie.
As with many other WWII films, it takes genuinely stirring source material — a young Hungarian man poses as a Nazi to find his dislocated family — and reduces it to its most shopworn components. (It’s the opposite of Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be, which maximized the potential of the dressing-as-Nazis genre three years before the war even ended.)
Schmidt stops just a few steps short of absolving German-aligned Hungary of any wrongdoing by showing what a tough spot Regent Miklos Horthy (Ben Kingsley) was in: “I aligned myself with what I thought was the lesser of two evils,” he says in a plaintive, hindsight-is-20/20 explanation early on.
Most impressive as yet another showcase for Kingsley’s chameleonic ability to be convincing regardless of when and where his characters hail from, Walking with the Enemy seems to shrink whenever the veteran actor isn’t onscreen, which is most of the time.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 23, 2014