‘One Life’ Movie Review: Timeless Tribute to Heroism and Humanity

In 2023, we saw a movie based on the Holocaust taking the world by storm. Yes, we are talking about Jonathan Glazer’s haunting masterpiece, The Zone of Interest. It gave a very different perspective about an event that changed the world. Now, months later, we have another project revolving around the Holocaust. James Hawes’ One Life centers around a man named Nicholas Winton who went to Czechoslovakia to rescue children staying inside concentration camps. This is not the first time that a film based on the heroics of one man has graced our screens, but One Life is a little different.

Helena Bonham Carter in One Life Movie Review
Helena Bonham Carter in One Life. Image courtesy of Bleecker Street.

One Life is based on a book by Barbara Winton

Based on the novel If It’s Not Impossible… The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton by Barbara Winton, One Life tells the extraordinary true story of Nicholas Winton traveling to Czechoslovakia in 1938 and deciding to rescue children from the concentration camps. However, things are turning bleak with each passing day. Winton meets Doreen Warriner (Romola Garai) in Czechoslovakia, who has been doing her best to protect several families.

After seeing their condition, Winton decides to take the kids out of those concentration camps and bring them to Great Britain. But he soon realizes that things are not going to be easy, and he, along with his team, has to be so quiet that the Nazis don’t get to know about their plans. Interestingly, the film not only shows what Winton did at the time but also shows how Winton, at the age of 79, still feels that he could have saved more people.

Anthony Hopkins as Nicholas Winton in One Life
Anthony Hopkins as Nicholas Winton in One Life. Image courtesy of Bleecker Street.

One Life is a film that recognizes the sensitivity of its subject matter

It’s really difficult to create a story around the Holocaust because everything needs to be accurate. Millions of people died, and if a filmmaker takes the liberty to show something that didn’t take place, it might make people feel really angry. This is where One Life succeeds and tells Winton’s story with a lot of sensitivity. Like The Zone of Interest, the film above unfolds against a tragic massacre. But there is a sense of urgency here because time is running out, presenting formidable challenges for Winton and his team as they strive to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Despite facing many obstacles, Winton remains undeterred, driven by a steadfast belief that “if something is not impossible, then there must be a way to do it.”

The film’s cinematography (thanks to Zac Nicholson) is magnificent and captures the startling contrast between wartime Europe and the idyllic English countryside, evoking a sense of poignancy and nostalgia. Every frame in this film has been stitched to show the urgency of the matter and how emotional it is. Additionally, the historical authenticity of the events makes the viewing experience richer. Meanwhile, the film pays tribute to the extraordinary efforts of the people who did everything and anything to defy Hitler’s evil plan and save those who could have had a better future. Although the film has been told from the eyes of Winton, it never fails to acknowledge the contributions of his teammates and the innumerable lives they collectively saved.

Another aspect that makes this movie such a brilliant watch is how the director, James Hawes, and the writers take a subtle approach to showing such a daunting task. The screenplay by Lucinda Coxon and Nick Drake is sharp and keeps the viewers hooked. The writers ensured that the screenplay captures the essence of Winton’s steadfast determination and the sacrifices of those involved. It also encapsulates the profound impact of one individual’s courageous acts in the face of unimaginable adversity.

James Hawes’ direction in One Life is masterful. He thoughtfully navigates through the several layers of Winton’s inspiring story, creating a cinematic experience that is both visually captivating and emotionally stimulating. Hawes’ seamless steering between the past and present timelines adds depth to the storytelling.

Incredible acting make One Life

As far as acting is concerned, Anthony Hopkins gives another exceptional performance that encapsulates the heroism and profound humanity of Nicholas Winton. He is one of the few actors who can make you cry in a jiffy, and that’s what he does here, too. Hopkins effortlessly embodies the layers of Winton’s characters and shows how determined the character was to do something that was never done before. The actor’s nuanced portrayal is the film’s soul, taking it to a level where viewers are left speechless. Truly outstanding. Meanwhile, Johnny Flynn’s performance as the young Nicholas Winton is compelling. His impeccable skills infuse the character with a blend of earnestness and empathy.

Johnny Flynn as Nicholas Winton In One Life - Movie Review
Johnny Flynn as Nicholas Winton In One Life. Image courtesy of Bleecker Street.

The film’s supporting cast, including Helena Bonham CarterJonathan PryceAlex SharpRomola Garai, and Juliana Monska, are spell-binding in their respective roles.

All in all, One Life is a moving drama that sheds light on a story that everyone should know. As the film moves closer to its conclusion, viewers are reminded how important it is to remember our heroes. The ending moments are so emotional that it will force viewers to cry their hearts out. One Life is a poignant and deeply moving tribute to an extraordinary human being. 

One Life is now in theaters.

Are you going to watch One Life, the movie about Nicholas Winton? Let us know on X @MoviesWeTexted.

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This is a banner for a review of The Zone of Interest. Images courtesy of A24.

Review: Jonathan Glazer’s ‘The Zone of Interest’ is unsettling and unforgettable