One Life – The DVDfever Cinema Review – Anthony Hopkins

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One Life proves, yet again, that one of our greatest national treasures of all time is Anthony Hopkins, still pulling out winning performances at the age of 86, following his absolute powerhouse of a performance in 2021’s The Father.

This film takes us back to the time of World War II, where Czech families are having to leave Poland because of Hitler’s invasion. For Hopkins, playing the real-life Nicholas Winton, we’re in 1987, which shows the man taking in and counting donation tins, along with other paraphrenalia for a care home, because he just can’t stop trying to help people.

Also playing Nicholas, or “Nicky” to his friends, is Johnny Flynn (The Dig), a stockbroker in London, 1938 – as he lives with his mother, Babi (Helena Bonham CarterNolly) – and learns what’s happening over there via the news, taking their plight to heart and acting upon what feels like rather a whim, or maybe he’s just doing what he thinks is right, however difficult it seems?

Either way, he’s drawn over there, setting up and working alongside a team including Doreen Warriner (Romola GaraiThe Miniaturist) and Trevor Chadwick (Alex SharpLiving), for a system similar to the KinderTransport, but that only was in place for German and Austrian kids, not Polish, with Nicky going between there and home, trying to get the government to arranging Visas for urgent foster care for as many children as possible, sometimes on as little notice as a couple of days.

One Life feels very timely, given ongoing the Gaza/Hamas war, along with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, all leading to displacement of people, this particular situation seeing chidlren separated from their parents and siblings, since not every family in the UK can take more than one or two children, meaning some youngsters never saw their brothers or sisters ever again, nor did they know what ever happened to them.

For a topic, this is heart-wrenching, and while Hopkins is on top form, Flynn continues to leave me cold in whatever role he plays. Plus, the scripting feels a bit cookie-cutter in how it’s put together, but for the most part, One Life is a gripping watch, not least for seeing those cases where some children manage to get from A to B, to safety, whereas others… just go missing.

Like Schindler’s List, this feels like it could be called Winton’s List, as this hero saved 669 children. We also learn that for the 15,000 kids were put into concentration camps, less than 200 survived.

On lighter notes, as Nick gets late into his life, he feels he wants his archive of information to go to somewhere where it can be useful, not a library where it’ll just gather dust on a shelf, and at this point, the dreaded Robert Maxwell takes an interest in his story, but this leads to an appearance on That’s Life, hosted by Esther Rantzen (Samantha SpiroParaskevidekatriaphobia – Inside No.9 Series 8 Episode 3), and while I won’t reveal how that turns out, if you knew already (and the trailer hints at this), then even when it happens onscreen, it’s more powerful than I remember, and I even found myself completely overcome with emotion at this point, before I’d even realised. Just amazing.

As an aside, I think Hopkins’ house in 1987 is the same one as used for Children of Men, since the outside looks very familiar compared to that owned by Jasper (Michael Caine), but even if it isn’t, then for One Life, we get to see some orange/brown-coloured crockery – Very 1970s! And I remember that!

One Life is in cinemas now, and is available to pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD, ahead of its release date TBA.

However, until that’s out, you can also buy the book on which this film is based.

One Life – Official Trailer – Warner Bros

Detailed specs:

Running time: 110 minutes
Release date: January 1st 2024
Studio: Warner Bros Pictures
Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
Cinema: Cineworld Didsbury
Rating: 8.5/10

Director: James Hawes
Producers: Joanna Laurie, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Guy Heeley
Screenplay: Lucinda Coxon, Nick Drake
Book: “If It’s Not Impossible… The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton” by Barbara Winton
Music: Volker Bertelmann

Nicholas Winton: Anthony Hopkins
Young Nicholas Winton: Johnny Flynn
Babi Winton: Helena Bonham Carter
Doreen Warriner: Romola Garai
Trevor Chadwick: Alex Sharp
Grete Winton: Lena Olin
Martin Blake: Jonathan Pryce
Young Martin Blake: Ziggy Heath
Esther Rantzen: Samantha Spiro