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Film REVIEW: One Life (2023) - ★★★★★


Back in 1938, British humanitarian Nicholas Winton risked his neck to evacuate the children of Nazi-occupied Europe. Now, with a devastating lead performance from Anthony Hopkins, One Life is the real-life historical drama we cannot ignore.


From cast, shoot, trailer and quotes, here’s everything you need to know.


Director: James Hawes


Writer: Lucinda Coxon, Nick Drake

based on If It's Not Impossible... The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton by Barbara Winton


Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter, Johnny Flynn, Lena Olin, Romolo Garai, Alex Sharp, Jonathan Pryce.


Genre: Biography, Drama, History

Themes: World War Two, Based on Real People, 1930s


The story of Sir Nicholas 'Nicky' Winton, a young London broker who, in the months leading up to World War II, rescued 669 predominantly Jewish children from the Nazis.

The film received mostly positive reviews, with praise for the performances of the cast, particularly Hopkins'.



In Cinemas Now



MIX UP REVIEWS:


Stewart - ★★★★★

"Solid storytelling in this powerful true story. Anthony Hopkins is perfect and leads a very good cast, the film does justice to such a heartbreaking story and it will have you in tears so make sure you've some tissues! A moving, unforgettable film."


Have you seen it yet?



 


One Life buzz - Why is everyone talking about the new Anthony Hopkins movie?


What does the name Nicholas Winton mean to you? If the answer is: ‘Nothing, nada, zilch, zip’, then that’s precisely what one of Britain’s greatest unsung heroes intended. Back in 1938, as World War II loomed, this daring humanitarian saved no fewer than 669 children from certain death in Hitler’s concentration camps – an epic operation known as the Kindertransport – but never asked for a shred of recognition.


As such, Winton – who died in 2015, aged 106 – was always reticent about seeing his story on the silver screen. “In 2010, my business partner Emile Sherman and I went to meet Nicholas,” said One Life producer Iain Canning in a panel interview. “We said, ‘We would really love to option your life rights and to make a film about you,’ and he said, ‘Everyone who needs to know about me already knows, so thank you very much. I don’t need a film made about me.’ We were sort of shocked, but we wanted to respect this incredibly humble, amazing human being.”


 

One Life backstory - How did this movie get green-lit?



Like we say, the modest Winton had no interest in high-fiving his way down the red carpet. But in these modern times of conflict and displacement, the man’s inspiring true story feels like a parable we need to hear. And with Winton’s daughter setting the wheels in motion after his passing, director James Hawes (Doctor Who, Merlin) worked tirelessly with scriptwriters Lucinda Coxon (Wild Target) , and Nick Drake – not to mention Anthony Hopkins (Thor series) and Johnny Flynn (The Dig, Emma.), in twin tour de force performances – for a film that honours the man dubbed ‘the British Schindler’.


You’ll be left speechless by this searing footnote in WWII history. “It’s a privilege to tell stories,” says Hawes, “and it’s magnificent when you tell a story as important as this one.”

 

One Life story - What is the movie One Life about?



As a 29-year-old stockbroker living a comfortable existence in London, Nicholas Winton was about to take a skiing holiday in Christmas 1938 when he received a phone call from activists Marie Schmolka and Doreen Warriner, telling him of the desperate plight facing Jewish families trapped in Czechoslovakia as Nazi forces massed on the country’s borders.


Most men would have turned their backs – after all, it wasn’t Winton’s fight. But as the son of German-Jewish immigrants himself, Winton changed his plans, journeying to Prague and stepping into his destiny.


Shocked by the scenes in the city’s slums, and grimly aware of the ticking clock as Hitler’s maniacal plans for world domination gathered pace, he spent the next month mobilising one of the most audacious mass evacuations ever seen, spiriting hundreds of mostly Jewish children to the safety of England and even completing the paperwork that allowed them to build new lives.


For the next half-century, Winton never spoke about the operation (his role only came to light when his wife Grete found his old notebooks and photographs in the attic). Yet even then, the legacy of the Kindertransport brought Winton no peace – much like fellow humanitarian Oskar Schindler, he was haunted for the rest of his days by the children left behind.

 

One Life cast - Who stars in this new WWII movie?



We all know Anthony Hopkins can play a criminally insane cannibal who’ll eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. So it’s testament to the Oscar-winner’s sprawling talent that he can also radiate pure goodness – albeit with a side-order of trauma – as the noble Winton.


At 85, Hopkins handles the humanitarian’s autumn years, as a silvery gentleman living quietly in suburbia, whose dreams are still haunted by unfurling swastika flags and the cruel clack of goose-stepping boots.


At the other end of the timeline, One Life is quite the career swerve for Johnny Flynn, who embodied David Bowie in 2020’s Stardust and leads his own folk-blues group The Sussex Wit. Go with it, because he’s fantastic as the young Nicholas Winton, capturing the fierce idealism of a man who, in his own quiet, stoic and self-effacing way, stuck it to der Führer.


Perhaps most impressive is that One Life always feels like you’re watching the same character, thanks to Hopkins and Flynn’s dramatic synergy. “We shot Tony’s fifteen days first,” explains director James Hawes, “and Johnny came to the set on a number of those days and watched Tony’s performance so that he could start to pitch towards that.”

 

One Life supporting cast - Who else should we look out for?



Whether he likes it or not, Nicholas Winton is the hero of One Life. But James Hawes’ film has a mighty supporting cast, too. Look out for Britpack legend Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter series, The King's Speech) as the humanitarian’s mother, Babette, who pushed the Home Office into issuing the refugees’ travel papers. “Films where you see Helena Bonham Carter take on authority and put people in their place,” says the director, “you’re onto a winner there, aren’t you?”

 

One Life reviews - What is the movie press saying about the new Anthony Hopkins movie?



One Life was the talk of last year’s Toronto Film Festival, where the movie press agreed this movie represents Hopkins at full force. “His display of unearthed emotion is rather shattering,” wrote The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee, “a man never thinking of himself as good enough finally realising he’s better than most of us. It’s a last act that brought down the house here in Toronto and will likely do the same upon release.”

 

If you want to start your new year by sinking your teeth into a movie of substance, there’s no better candidate. Capturing the shriek of steam trains, the snarl of Nazi dogs and the darkening atmosphere of a city on the brink, few films ping you so evocatively back into history.


Just as importantly, as Variety’s Alissa Simon writes, we’ve never needed this movie more: “One Life serves as an urgent reminder of the importance of individual action at a time when the world refugee crisis is at a scale not seen since the Second World War.”


 

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