Based on true events, Schindler’s List follows Liam Neeson’s Oskar Schindler as he slowly-but-surely becomes aware of the atrocities being perpetrated against his Jewish workforce during the Second World War. It’s clear almost immediately that filmmaker Steven Spielberg is using Schindler’s story as a clothesline upon which to hang a more all-encompassing portrait of the Holocaust, which does ensure, naturally, that Schindler’s List remains a somewhat hit-and-miss affair for the duration of its almost ludicrously overlong running time of 195 minutes – although, by that same token, there’s certainly no denying the effectiveness and impact of several key sequences (eg Schindler addresses Nazis and his employees at the close of the war). The movie, then, benefits from an often astonishingly specific attention to detail and an assortment of career-best performances from many of its stars, with Neeson’s stirring turn as the conflicted protagonist matched by a periphery cast that includes Embeth Davidtz, Ben Kingsley, and Ralph Fiennes. (The latter is terrifying and commanding as an especially malevolent Nazi.) The end result is an undeniably important film that never quite becomes a great one, unfortunately, and yet it’s hard to deny that certain images and sequences from the production remain impossible to shake all these years later.
*** out of ****