The Survivor tells an important story on Yom HaShoah

The Survivor
The Survivor /

The film, The Survivor, debuts on HBO on Wednesday, April 27, at 8 p.m. ET. It tells the story of boxer and Holocaust survivor Harry Haft. 

Everyone has a story to tell, but for some reason, boxers’ lives tend to yield some of the most powerfully dramatic stories imaginable. The film, The Survivor, evidences this by portraying Harry Haft’s life.

Haft was never a world champion. There’s probably a fair cross-section of sportswriters who don’t know who Haft was.

Haft had an unremarkable boxing career from 1948 to 1949. He went 12-8, with 7 KOs, and is best known for fighting and losing to contender Roland LaStarza and future heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano.

But there’s so much more to Haft’s legacy than his final two boxing bouts.

The Survivor is a biopic directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog) and stars Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma, Hell or High Water) as Haft. It’s based on the biography Harry Haft: Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano by Alan Haft.

The Survivor stars Ben Foster in an exceptional biopic, which airs on HBO on Wednesday, April 27, at 8 p.m. ET

People might accidentally categorize this as a boxing film, but it’s so much more. It’s a drama in the purest sense of the word that expertly jumps around between space and time to tell Haft’s harrowing story.

The film appropriately debuts on HBO and HBO Max on April 28, which is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Haft was a Holocaust survivor from Poland who had boxing forced on him while inside Auschwitz. Levinson organizes the film in a non-linear format, which pieces together Haft’s traumas to get the audience to empathize with Haft’s moral dilemma alongside his day-to-struggles.

Foster’s performance brings Haft’s pain and brutal life alive in a way that very few actors can. His physical transformation, based on the time being portrayed, is remarkable.

The makeup artists deserve credit for that, but so does Foster, whose body morphs along with the years represented.

Many films about boxers follow a hyperbolic underdog archetype, but there’s no sense of the commonplace in this film. Boxing remains on the periphery of Haft’s internal demons, which viewers internalize with Foster on screen.

The ensemble cast includes Peter Sarsgaard, Vicky Krieps, Danny DeVito and John Leguizamo, who all turn in strong performances to make The Survivor one of the best films of 2022 so far.

However, Foster’s depiction of Haft steals the show and demonstrates the full power of his acting abilities.

The screenplay, directing, and acting combine to deliver a shot of realism that viewers will feel long after the film ends. It’s a testament to Haft’s legacy and the lessons his life offers.

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