The Survivor

Ben Foster has for decades distinguished himself as a character actor, and it’s quite gratifying to see him give his all in a long-overdue title role; and in a character-driven Barry Levinson movie at that.

It’s the true story of Harry Haft, a Polish Jew who during WWII boxed to the death against his fellow concentration camp prisoners in order to amuse the Nazis. He survived the camps but was beset with horrific memories and guilt. He was obsessed with finding the girl he loved before the war. To this end, he sought fights with boxing legends as a way to get his name in the paper to let her know he was alive and searching for her. Marciano clobbered him. 

Foster essentially plays a triple role here, as an emaciated camp inmate, a formidable post-war boxer and finally a plumpish middle-aged family man. I have no idea how the filmmakers pulled this off, perhaps a combination of starvation diet, CGI manipulation and fat suits, but Foster is never less than totally believable. 

This is necessarily a fairly uncomfortable sit, but it will stay with you. Excellent supporting cast includes Vicky Krieps, Billy Magnussen, Peter Sarsgaard, Danny DeVito and John Leguizamo. (129 min)