“Someone told me it’s all happening at the zoo” (Paul Simon), but apparently not at this one!
This film is an adaptation of the book of the same name written by Diane Ackerman and tells an amazing true story. I suspect the book is better than this movie, which I found flat and disappointing. I am giving it a 7.0 only because it’s an heroic story about a courageous, non-Jewish married couple that saved the lives of about 300 Polish Jews. Otherwise, it would only get a 6.5, despite having some interesting moments, mainly nice scenes with the animals!
Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh), own and operate the “Warsaw Zoo” in 1939. The Nazis invade Poland in September 1939, and then take over the zoo in order to use it as an armory. Soon after they arrive, they start shooting many of the zoo’s animals.
A German zookeeper, Daniel Bruhl (Lutz Heck), offers to ship some of the animals to his zoo in Berlin. He tells Antonina that he will return them to the “Warsaw Zoo” after the war ends. Since this is the only way to save some of the animals, Antonina agrees, although Jan is skeptical and believes that Daniel has ulterior motives.
Antonina and Jan decide to hide a close friend’s wife, but, over time, they wind up hiding about 300 Warsaw Jews at the zoo – in tunnels and other clever hiding places, practically in plain sight of the Nazis!
I found Chastain’s Polish accent a real turn-off. If one is going for authenticity, why not hire Polish and German actors and have sub-titles? If the actors are speaking English, why bother with an accent anyway? For example, in the great TV show “Star-Trek,” the dialogue on planets light-years away from Earth is still spoken in English, usually performed without any accents!
If you are interested in this piece of history, I would still wait to rent it – otherwise, I’d pass.