A watchable film with plenty of action, “Walking with the Enemy” tells the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of a young man in Hungary.
Inspired by true events, the central character is Elek Cohen (“Edge of Tomorrow”). The Nazis are beginning to lose the way, and Adolph Eichmann begins the deportation of Jews from Budapest in a country that previously had not experienced atrocities.
The movie is loosely based on the heroic Pinchas Tibor Rosenbaum, a Hungarian Jew who saved hundreds of people by pretending to be a member of the Arrow Cross, which was the Hungarian Nazi Party.
The German leaders are uncertain where the loyalties of the Hungarians, especially Regent Horthy (Ben Kingsley), lie. In the meantime, Horthy tries to maneuver the country between communist Russian and the impending Nazi threat.
Elsewhere, Cohen is one of two works that the Jewish owner of a radio repair shop sends home as soon as the Nazi presence grows in Budapest. Ultimately, Cohen is separated from his family when he is dispatched to a labor camp, where he sees how easily people are murdered. He becomes determined to return home and find his family, but they are gone when he does return to his former residence.
He is befriended by Hanna (Hannah Tointon), a girl he met previously at a dance and whose uncle Carl Lutz (William Hope), protected by the Swiss, runs a printing press that creates fake Swiss passports, which are the only hope of survival for so many. Those with such passports are allowed to leave Hungary for Switzerland.
At one point, two Nazi soldiers follow Hannah home and try to sexually assault her. Cohen kills them, hides the bodies, and then decides to dress himself in the uniform of a Nazi.
Cohen then begins to successfully, at least for the most part, impersonate a German soldier, and helps other Jews at every opportunity.
Sometimes, the film is beset with clichés. There are some pretty incredulous escapes, for example, and a couple of just-in-the-nick-of-time events that you can see coming.
At other times, I like the way the script sets up situations in a convincing manner — we already know that Cohen speaks German in an early scene, for example, so we readily believe that he could impersonate a German soldier.
The movie is understandably violent, although it never stoops to being exploitive. The casual slaughter of innocents is a ghastly part of history. The swiftness of the slayings of individuals and masses is blood-curdling.
Be sure to stay until after the end for a glimpse at some of the real people depicted here.