The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is the tragic story of Bruno, an innocent, inquisitive eight-year-old, and the son of a Nazi officer. When his father is promoted and transferred to direct the operations at a concentration camp, young Bruno is forced to leave his friends and relative freedom behind. Enclosed behind the wall that surrounds his new house and grounds, Bruno sneaks off for an adventure in the woods and to check out the distant "farm" he has seen from his window. When he meets Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a young Jewish boy his own age behind the farm's fence, the wheels are set in motion for the movie's heart-wrenching conclusion.
The movie released on DVD on March 10, 2009 from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and stars Asa Butterfield as eight-year-old Bruno, with Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Nothing But the Truth), David Thewlis (Kingdom of Heaven, the "Harry Potter" franchise) as his parents, and Jack Scanlon as his friend, Shmuel. This sad and moving tale of a forbidden friendship between two children divided by war, is set during World War II and is seen through the eyes of Bruno. Bruno slowly realizes that his new friend is Jewish and begins to think about what it means to have the Jews as his enemy. He becomes confused by the Nazi doctrines his over-zealous tutor espouses, as well as arguments between his parents, and he begins to question the real purpose of the farm.
Bruno betrays his friend Shmuel when the boys are threatened by an over zealous Nazi soldier and longs to make it up to his friend. When his Jewish friend needs Bruno's help finding his missing father, the boys come up with an outrageous plan that comes to a devastating conclusion. Provocative and haunting and brilliantly acted, this film is an unforgettable portrait of an innocent child trying to understand and survive a world gone mad.
Asa Butterfield gives new meaning to "wide-eyed innocence" in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and Vera Farmiga is outstanding for her portrayal of a mother whose world and psyche begin to unravel as she witnesses some of the atrocities of the Holocaust. David Thewlis gives a remarkable performance as a loving father who is usually a nice guy and a loving husband -- as well as a heartless concentration camp commandant. Vicious brutality occurs in his home while the Nazi commandant politely dabs his lips with his napkin. The brutal scenes take place off screen, but this is a dark movie rated PG-13 for some mature thematic material involving the Holocaust.
I am not usually surprised by the endings of movies, but I was almost caught off guard by the ending of this film. The conclusion of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is sad and disturbing, so if you are looking for a happy ending, pass this one by. If, however, you are looking for an intelligent, well-acted movie about the Holocaust, an atrocity which must never be allowed to happen again to any race, religion, or ethnic group again in any country -- this is a must-see movie.
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