Steven Spielberg's best film (1993) doesn't so much forgo the shameless and ruthless manipulations of his earlier work as refine and direct them toward a nobler purpose. Working from a well-constructed script by Steven Zaillian (Searching for Bobby Fischer) adapting Thomas Keneally's nonfiction novel—a fascinating account of the Nazi businessman Oskar Schindler, who saved the lives of over 1,100 Polish Jews—Spielberg does an uncommonly good job both of holding our interest over 185 minutes and of showing more of the nuts and bolts of the Holocaust than we usually get from fiction films. Despite some characteristic simplifications, he's generally scrupulous about both his source and the historical record. One enormous plus is the rich and beautiful black-and-white cinematography by onetime Chicagoan Janusz Kaminski. Spielberg's capacity to milk the maximal intensity out of the existential terror and pathos conveyed in Keneally's book—Polish Jews could be killed at any moment by the capriciousness of a labor camp director (Ralph Fiennes)—is complemented and even counterpointed by his capacity to milk the glamour of Nazi high life and absolute power. Significantly, each emotional register is generally accompanied by a different style of cinematography, and much as Liam Neeson's effective embodiment of Schindler works as our conduit to the Nazis, Ben Kingsley's subtle performance as his Jewish accountant, right-hand man, and mainly silent conscience provides our conduit to the Polish Jews. With Caroline Goodall, Jonathan Sagalle, and Embeth Davidtz.
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