WWII Film Guide: The Aftermath

*Last Updated: 1/1/2024
*This post is part of a film guide on World War II. Click here for the main page
*For more context on the process behind this guide, click here for an introduction

What strings does the past have on our present? To what do we owe today what happened some 80 years ago now? The second world war created giant historical political, economic, and social waves that are still being felt today. In that sense, almost every post-war historical story is in some big or small way directly or indirectly part of the fallout of the war. The films on this list deal with the psychological burdens of war (The Best Years of Our Lives), the final moments of the German and Japanese militaries (Downfall, Emperor), the physical and social mines leftover (Ten Seconds to Hell, Land of Mine) the burgeoning cold war (The Good German), the humanitarian crisis (Grave of the Fireflies), and the search for justice against war criminals (Judgment at Nuremberg, Labyrinth of Lies, Operation Finale). This is a category stacked with excellent films folks.

One of my favorite film quotes comes from Frodo Baggins in Return of the King after he's gone through the entire ordeal of the ring and he's dealing with the trauma, "How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand... there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold." After the evil and upheaval that occurred in the second world war, how do you pick up the pieces? How is it possible to try and make things right again? These films struggle to show just how we tried. 

In order to get you to the thing most of you came for, "What's the best in this genre? I've put my recommendations for you below. Following that, if you'd like to learn more about the 16 films in this section, then you can find each film in this category organized by release date (oldest to newest) with a brief commentary, a link to its IMDB page, and my grade.

The Top Shelf: Best in this category belongs to...
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1987): A simple but challenging work of art. This war film for me, more than any other I've ever seen, is a direct challenge to those alive to remember the sufferings and sacrifices of those who have come before us. We owe them at least their memory and dignity and beyond that, our stewardship of the world we have received on their backs. Watch this one and be prepared to live differently after.

The Deep Dive: For those wanting a broader and richer journey...
  • Dealing with the End - Downfall (2005): After so many lives have been sacrificed in the bloodiest war of all-time and the Allies are closing in on Berlin, how does Hitler and his inner circle deal with the truth that the end is near? A fascinating and educational look into history of when fanatical leaders finally must face reality.
  • Seeking Justice - Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) & Labyrinth of Lies (2014): The best look into the reasoning, mindset, and procedures behind trying key Germans for war crimes. 
  • Domestic Aftermath - The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): The success William Wellman had in depicting British domestic life at the onset of World War II with Mrs. Miniver he is able to duplicate in his depiction of three American servicemen adjusting to life after the war. Grounded, incredibly well-written, and ultimately hopeful.
  • Telling the Story - Denial (2016): How can later generations tell the story of the war? Are they allowed to deny clear historical events like the Holocaust? This film demonstrates that the fight for truth is not a once and for all battle. It's a fight that every generation, every human brings up anew. 

Individual Film Commentary (Oldest to Newest)
  • A+ = All-time Classic
  • A   = Excellent Film
  • A-  = Excellent Film, but some minor faults
  • B+ = Very Good film
  • B   = Good Film
  • B-  = Good Film, but some key faults
  • C+ = Average with some redeeming qualities, but major faults
  • C   = Mediocre Film
  • C-  = Poor Film
  • D+ = Bad Film
  • I don't usually rate anything lower

1. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) IMDB
-  There's a strange silence that surrounds certain issues of war. After a lengthy quiet on war crimes, atrocities, and the holocaust, it has now become quite regular to see films tackle that issue. Still to this day, the issue of re-adjusting to life after war and overcoming issues like disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder are not depicted very often. I think it's because it's a topic with no easy answers. Like dealing with depression or drug abuse - it's not like the normal character arc where a hero just makes a decision to change to confront evil. Learning to live with a disability or deal with PTSD is much more difficult, much more nuanced, often includes bouts with alcoholism, and is often filled with small and incremental steps.

The Best Years of Our Lives was brave to tackle these issues in 1946 so soon after the war and it was handsomely rewarded at the box office and Oscars for its quality. The film follows the return of three different servicemen to the city of Boone. Harold Russell plays Homer Parrish, a Navy serviceman dealing with the loss of his hands and the reaction his family and girlfriend have to his disability. Frederic March plays Al Stephenson trying to tackle the changes in domestic life his family has gone through during the war. Finally, Dana Andrews plays Fred Derry who became a Captain dropping bombs from a bomber and finds it hard to get work he feels worthy of and going back to his wife who can't imagine him as a civilian.

The film takes its time following these men, giving the viewer (especially decades later) a nice window into a spectrum of what society looked like after the war. Director William Wyler (who also directed the war film Mrs. Miniver and was a veteran himself) has done a great job trying to be honest and grounded in his depictions here. He is not afraid to get dark, though I'm sure there were some realities the time period wouldn't allow him to depict to audiences. In the end, one of the most underrated and moving aspects about William Wellman's WWII films about domestic life, Mrs. Miniver and The Best Years of Our Lives, are the imperfect but loving families and marriages at the center. Films today so often feature broken families it has been moving experiencing that simple goodness on screen. There's something to be said that when faced with the greatest crisis in history and in the lives of the characters enduring it - Wellman's films suggest that a family, open to each other, accepting and forgiving and enduring together is the best response to navigate it. It's beautiful and refreshing. GRADE: A-

2. Ten Seconds to Hell (1959) IMDB
- It is the end of the war and six men who worked on bomb disposal with the German army are employed by the Allies to defuse bombs throughout Berlin. It's a daunting task that has a very short life span, so the down on their luck men make a deal with each other to put away half their earnings and if they die in the next three months their earnings will go to the surviving men. As the weeks go by, the men get organized, defuse bombs, but mistakes, accidents, and tricky bombs begin diminishing the group. As the band of men narrows, there thoughts turn to their morbid bet and if anyone will survive it.

Jack Palance plays the lead character here and is the moral backbone of the film. When the film focuses on the dynamic between the bomb defusers and their difficult job it is pretty darn good and thrilling. However, when the film turns to romance and love relationships, it all gets pretty sentimental and dated. Check this one out for the bomb disposal scenes and Palance's performance alone. GRADE: C+ 

3. Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) IMDB
- Responsibility...who is responsible for war and the things that happen under its auspices? That's the question at the heart of this film. It has been a few years since the biggest Nazi leaders were tried. It's now 1948 and a tribunal has been called to hold try key German judges during the Nazi regime. This lengthy prestige film (roughly based on a number of real trials) was a passion project for Stanley Kramer and he has made an incredible film - a film full of righteous indignation. Providing the anchor for that indignation is the calm, measured, and steady performance of Spencer Tracy as the head American judge. He oversees the trial and it's clear he wants justice and won't be swayed by any attempt to stack the deck and get a pre-ordained judgment as some kind of revenge or retribution.

"A judge does not make the law, he carries them out" says Maximillian Schell in his Oscar winning performance as the lead defense attorney. This is the key defense - how can you hold someone responsible who was just following orders, doing their duty, and was not necessarily responsible for the original orders. I like to see this as the natural sequel to 2001's Conspiracy and 2005's Sophie Scholl: The Final Days - films that depict civil lawyers and judges being unsure of but still abusing their profession in order to carry the water for the government's central policies. This battle largely plays out in the courtroom with the prosecutor and defense dueling with witnesses and Spencer Tracy playing referee. 

There are a few things that stand out in the courtroom back and forth. First, the film's willingness to call out American double standards. While exploring the issue of judges recommending the use of sterilization as punishment the defense reads a favorable opinion on sterilization from popular American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes. In this sense, the film is at least willing to broaden "responsibility" beyond just the Germans to American law trends as well. This kind of nuance, without still losing sight of Nazi guilt, is rare in films and much appreciated . Second, Judy Garland's Hoffman and Montgomery Clift's Peterson provide two of the most memorable sequences of the entire film. Clift's plea for justice of what happened to him and his mentally ill mother in particular is a sequence I frequently return to. It's devastating. One of the finest pieces of acting I've ever seen.

Finally, the character who hangs over the entire film, but says little until the end, is Burt Lancaster's Ernst Janning. It is clear from his mostly silent performance and the way the camera films him there is an internal tempest going on inside him. When he finally breaks and lets his emotions out in the final act of the film - it's a dramatic catharsis and moral acknowledgement felt well beyond the confines of the film. There's a moral lesson that speaks to and educates the viewer: there is no depth to the evil men can do if they allow their fear of others and love for country to overtake their principles. GRADE: A-

4. Grave of the Fireflies (1988) IMDB
- What do we owe the generations that came before us? Are we bound to them in any direct way? I've never felt that question hit as hard as it does in this film - which is odd because the film never directly asks the question but only indirectly applies it. This is a film that is equally built for the atrocity and aftermath sub-categories and it might very well be the greatest anti-war film I've ever come across. The film opens with a broken down teenage boy named Seita dying in the subways of postwar Kobe, Japan. As he dies we see his spirit join with his young sister, Setsuko, as they ride a subway train together. For an animated film, this is easily the saddest and bleakest opening I've ever seen. From that opening we flash back a year or so to Seita and Setsuko escaping their home during an American fire-bombing raid. Their mother is badly injured (and eventually dies) from the bombing and their father is off to war. The rest of the film tells the story of their attempt to survive the aftermath of the bombings, as they pass hands through relatives, come into conflict with others, struggle to find water and food, and eventually strike out on their own. 

Most of the runtime is filled with the mundane tasks of trying to survive with little food or water. It's often very depressing stuff - to watch young children struggle in hunger and thirst and watch community members often not care. However, there is always a search for goodness and beauty interspersed throughout the trials. Whether it's taking the moment to enjoy freshening up from a busted water pipe, a hot bath, the sweet taste of a fruit drop, or the wonderful sight of fireflies - this movie juxtaposes all the suffering with wonder and goodness of life. This makes sense as we are really getting the perspective of what its like to endure a war from the perspective of the youth. 

In this sense, the film should fall in the "holocaust/subcategory" right? I'd agree if it wasn't for the framing of the film that I think more firmly places this film in the "aftermath" category. After the death of Saito and Setsuko (which we know from the beginning of the film) their spirits travel along the journey of the film, observing the main events. As we come to the end of the film their spirits sit atop a hill and overlook modern and prosperous Japan. Even typing these words I struggle to not cry while thinking about their implications. To return back to the opening question, "What do we owe the generations that came before us?" This film for me, more than any other I've ever seen, is a direct challenge for us to remember the sufferings and sacrifices of those who have come before us. We owe them at least their memory and dignity and beyond that, our stewardship of the world we have received on their backs. GRADE: A+

5. Downfall (2005) IMDB
-  Almost everyone has seen the famous clip from this video of Hitler yelling at his staff set to a variety of funny captioned messages. I hope that the viral clip led more people to give this film a chance because the full 2.5 hours is a wonderful history lesson and insight not just into the fall of Berlin and downfall of Hitler, but into the power dynamics and fanaticism among his inner circle during those final days. The war is essentially over, Germany has lost, this film is about how Hitler and his inner circle deal with that truth.

The film begins in 1942 with Hitler getting a new secretary. In truth, much of the film is based on the account of this secretary and her time spent in the bunker with the inner circle in those fateful last days. A real interview with the aged secretary Traudl Junge opened the film with haunting words, "I've got the feeling that I should be angry with this child, this young and oblivious girl. Or that I'm not allowed to forgive her for not seeing the nature of that monster. That she didn't realise what she was doing. And mostly because I've gone so obliviously. Because I wasn't a fanatic Nazi." The film then enters into the bunkers under Berlin where the German high command spend the final weeks of the war in 1945. 

I won't recount the full events here because that's not the point of these commentaries. I'll say this though, for the casual history fan and those deep into history, a film like this one gets better and better with each viewing. It is so handsomely produced and acted (with an iconic performance from Bruno Ganz) that it feels we are intruding on the actual history and with each view gaining more and more insight into the mind and spirit of that group. Yes, this film could likely be trimmed a bit to make the story better paced, but there's too much great history here to be lost. I'm okay with a bloated runtime when the insight is this strong. Paired with a film like 2001's Conspiracy and you have great insight into how the Nazi leadership worked - with fear, ambition, and fanaticism always infusing their actions. 

A final quote from Traudl Junge closes the film, "All these horrors I've heard of during the Nurnberg process, these six million Jews, other thinking people or people of another race, who perished. That shocked me deeply. But I hadn't made the connection with my past. I assured myself with the thought of not being personally guilty. And that I didn't know anything about the enormous scale of it. But one day I walked by a memorial plate of Sophie Scholl in the Franz-Joseph-Strasse. I saw that she was about my age and she was executed in the same year I came to Hitler. And at that moment I actually realized that a young age isn't an excuse. And that it might have been possible to get to know things." Get beyond the meme and watch this whole film. GRADE: A-

6. The Good German (2006) IMDB
-  The thought of Steven Soderbergh, George Clooney, and Cate Blanchett shooting a black and white thriller taking place in Berlin after World War II in the style of old 1940's films (think Casablanca mixed with film noir) is really exciting. Were they able to execute the concept? Well, on the level of craft, the execution is great. Clooney is well suited for the role and it's fun to see a contemporary crime mystery filtered this way. On the level of a World War II film, there's a lot of interesting threads here: the Potsdam Conference, US vs. Russia, tracking down war criminals, and Operation Paperclip. I like that the film swirls these all together and asks the basic question, "Are any Germans clean?" or put another way, "Are there any good Germans?" left after the war? Unfortunately, the story crafted to mix all these threads just never quite engages and gels. Thankfully it's on the shorter end, but this feels like one of the films you can praise individual parts but never quite find yourself complimenting the actual story - which is unfortunately the most important part of the film. GRADE: C+

7. The Reader (2008) IMDB
- In postwar West Germany, a young fifteen year old boy named Michael encounters a middle-aged German woman named Hanna and played by Kate Winslet. The curious, and hormone driven young boy returns to Winslet's apartment where they begin a love relationship. During their encounters, Michael begins to read to Hanna, who we later learn can't read on her own. Eventually, Hanna ups and mysteriously leaves. The catch to this postwar story is that it twists into an aftermath story where Hanna turns out to have been a prison guard at a concentration camp during World War II and Michael, now a young adult and student studying to be a lawyer encounters her again at a war crimes trial. This revelation sends Michael into a tailspin that distances him from his college roommates.

The premise is interesting, but the execution, while professional, is morally offensive to me. It's one thing to tell a story about a young boy's first infatuation with an older woman, but it's another to show their sexual encounters in vivid detail. While the actor is likely above 18 at the time of shooting (I read that they waited to film those scenes until just after his 18th birthday), I don't think there's any excuse to show sexualized nudity of a character who is meant to be 15-16 years old. The sequences are unnecessary and offensive in my opinion. Additionally, the movie completely fails in giving us any worthwhile insight into Winslet's Hanna. I don't quite understand how a woman who did the vile things she is accused of at Auschwitz, then essentially seduces and beds an underage boy over and over, can be countered by an empathetic performance, the sad fact she is illiterate, and her sad "we were just doing our job" defense. By the end of the film, I just don't know what we are supposed to feel and think. If anything it seems the film is committed to wanting us to side with Hanna as a victim. I don't get it. Despite the kind gesture from Michael at the end of the film. I think that of all the films that explore the question of what we do with those who partook of the atrocities during the war, this one seems to bring more confusion and do so in a painfully slow way. One of the more overrated Oscar nominated films ever. GRADE: C-

8. The Debt (2011) IMDB
- A fictionalized account of a trio of Israeli Mossad agents slipping into East Berlin in 1965 to kidnap and smuggle out an infamous Nazi war criminal. The story of Israeli groups working to bring justice to Nazi war criminals who escaped trials is a classic WWII aftermath story. What seems like a straightforward story (see 2018's Operation Finale for something more like that) is subverted with a major plot twist about halfway through. While this probably seemed like a great idea on paper (and it is) the actual finished film is hodgepodge of tones and a plot that starts and stops in fits. The 1965 kidnapping story starts out well,  moving quickly, and providing some suspenseful sequences. After the kidnapping and failed border crossing the group must settle down in their hideout and the film becomes stagnant and boring. These agents are supposed to be quiet and in hiding, but they are yelling and fighting and turn into an unlikeable group of actors. In particular is Sam Worthington, who was in every major film around this time, and is just kinda there on the screen lacking any serious emotion. Another issue here is the attempt to turn the Nazi war criminal into some kind of Hannibal Lecter - working psychological games on the group. It's all so...obviously written...that it just feels so false. Once the twist of the film comes about halfway, the film primarily moves to 1997 when the trio of agents must continue to deal with the aftermath of their actions in 1965. This section of the film feels like it belongs in another movie to me. Despite what I've said, there's a decent thread about telling the truth and the toll that keeping lies takes - I just wish the storytelling here did a better job at getting that across. GRADE: C

9. Emperor (2013) IMDB
- Japan has just surrendered and the Americans have the task of seeking out war criminals and administering a peaceful transfer to peace. Tommy Lee Jones plays General Douglas MacArthur who is in charge of this process, but it is Matthew Fox's General Bonner Fellers who gets the lead task of investigating whether or not the Japanese Emperor should be tried. This task allows the movie to explore the complicated system that led Japan to war and for Fellers to seek out his old Japanese flame from when he used to be stationed there. 

The premise is engaging to me as the Japanese surrender and transfer of power is not well depicted in film or taught in history. Unfortunately, this film does little to shine a strong light on it. Told partly as a straight historical narrative, partly as a noir like investigation, partly as a political thriller, and partly as a tragic romance - the film feels uneven and never quite hits a groove. Matthew Fox, who can be a good actor, doesn't feel quite right for the role here. When he gets angry and threatens Japanese generals to cooperate, he just isn't believable. When the film flashes back to his previous romance it essentially just stops all momentum. It's just not well tied together. At least, by its conclusion, the film captures the consequential meeting between MacArthur and Hirohito in dramatic fashion. GRADE: C

10. The Railway Man (2013) IMDB
- This film mixes several categories for its story - the prisoner of war, atrocity, and aftermath. It is based on the true story of Eric Lomax who was a prisoner of war in Southeast Asia during World War II. Like the films Bridge on the River Kwai and To End All Wars, Eric was forced to work on the Japanese railway. In his time as a POW he was tortured and beaten. After the war, Eric retained his interest in railways but struggled, like many soldiers, with what he experienced. With the introduction of a new wife and the unique challenge of a friend, Eric returns to Southeast Asia to confront the man behind his torture. Will he take revenge? Will he forgive? Will he find any closure? It's a bit slow, but this well-acted story with a difficult but challenging ending is worth a watch. GRADE: B 

11. Labyrinth of Lies (2014) IMDB
- How far should the officers of German death and concentration camps be prosecuted after the war? What about those who've burned their uniforms and become upstanding citizens? The film begins in 1958 as a survivor from the Auschwitz concentration camp recognizes that the teacher at an elementary school is an SS officers from the camp. When a journalist brings this to the attention of the local attorney general's office, he is essentially laughed out of the room...except by one young prosecutor who finds the claim curious. He doesn't understand why everyone seems so quick to dismiss it. He does some research, finds it to be true, but finds resistance in his own ranks. The more resistance he meets, the more he pushes and wonders, "What happened at Auschwitz and won't people address it?" In his naiveite, he and many others think that Auschwitz is just another camp like all countries had during the war and the more outlandish stories are just victor propaganda. The young prosecutor Radmann operates as the audiences perspective, so as he learns that the horrors of Auschwitz extend beyond the normal prison camp, beyond a couple of bad apple officers, and was in fact systematic genocide, we learn it as well. He wants to push for more and thankfully he finds support for it from the attorney general. 

The rest of the film recounts the building and trying of the case against the officers at Auschwitz and the obstacles and excuses for resistance  encountered all seem reasonable: It's a nonstarter; They were soldiers just doing their duty; Everyone was a Nazi; If aliens came down you'd turn alien; You'll just be digging old wounds; Hitler is gone, the Russians are the new enemy. This is all well executed stuff and it doesn't shy away from the tough questions and the brutal realities. In the end, I'm on the side of truth - and I think the best healing and moving can't move forward without as much transparency/clarity as possible. I'll remember for a while this exchange between a cynical layer and the hopeful Radmann:

Cynic: Are you aware of the consequences? Do you want every young German to ask if their father was a murderer?!"
Radmann: Yes, that's exactly what I want. I want these lies and this silence to end. 

Turns out, when Radmann investigates his own father, he finds what he does not want to. The film says it's worth knowing, even if it will be devastating to come to terms with. I agree. GRADE: A-

12. Land of Mine (2015) IMDB
- The Germans buried over 2.2 million land mines along the Danish coastline during World War II. Once the war was over, German POWS, many of them just teen boys, were used to clear the land mines. Dane actor Roland Moller plays a Danish Sergeant overseeing a squad of Germans who are assigned a stretch of the coast line to complete. Once they clear their stretch, they are free to go home, until then, they are prisoners under the harsh eye of the Sergeant. At first, the Sergeant is filled with hatred and bitterness towards the POWs. It's clear that he could care less if any POW lost their life while defusing the bombs. When one of the young soldiers is mangled by a bomb, the Sergeant only leaves his hut to administer morphine. Later when the soldiers steal some grain, they aren't being fed because food is scarce for German POWS, and get sick - the Sergeant takes pleasure in their suffering - even if you can see a little bit of a fatherly affection growing. 

As he works with the young prisoners, witnesses their suffering, sees their lack of food, and glimpses his own hatred in the behavior of other Danish officers, he begins to change. He beings to empathize with their situation and see their humanity. In scene after scene, the audience begins to see their simple humanity as well and we begin to cheer for them. This simple premise sets out the ethical dilemma at the core of cleaning up a war's aftermath - how do you stop the cycle of violence and resentment once it has begun? In many ways, it was the lingering frustration of World War I that sowed the seeds of hate that flowered into World War II. It's certain the Sergeant suffered by the Germans in the war, does his ill treatment simply beget more German resentment and their reprisals at first chance? Unless we are confronted with the humanity of our enemy and treat them with dignity and compassion in response, we will never escape the endless cycle of violence. 

The cinematography of the film balances the two sides of this cycle well - beautifully showcasing the striking beauty of the Danish beaches right alongside the grizzly sweat, popping veins, and gory violence and realism of the situation. It's like the cinematography is saying that if only we treated each other better we could enjoy this good earth together. There's a beautiful sequence when the men, including the Sergeant, are playing soccer on the beach and just enjoying each other's company. Naturally, it's interrupted with a mistake, with violence, and an explosion that threatens the goodwill earned. By the time the end draws near, the toll taken is nearly unbearable. As it draws near, naturally with a good story, it asks the Danish Sergeant to put to the test how much he has changed. I really loved this film and the way it so simply and organically challenges the viewer to go on a transformative journey with the Danish Sergeant. Don't miss out on it. GRADE: A-

13. The People vs. Fritz Bauer (2015) IMDB
- One can think of this film as the intellectual forerunner and cinematic reflection of films like Labyrinth of Lies and Operation Finale. Not in that it came out before those films, but because it depicts the higher level leadership battles over the ramifications of searching for and putting him on trial. The film recounts the efforts and trials of West German Attorney General Fritz Bauer in hunting down escaped Nazi war criminals, in particular Adolph Eichmann. Playing Bauer is Burghart Klausner and the character feels lived in, weary, and weighed down by his burden to bring justice to those profiteering Nazi's who slipped back into society. It's a slow burner, but for those wanting a bit more understanding of the political complications in the hunt for Nazi war criminals, or even want a prologue to the film Operation Finale, check this one out. GRADE: B 

14. The Woman in Gold (2015) IMDB
- Based on the true story of Maria Altmann, a Jewish refugee and daughter of a wealthy and influential Jewish family, who fled shortly Austria after the Nazi's annexed it. Maria fled, but many in her family did not make it out and paid for it with their wealth and their lives. Part of that wealth was a series of paintings made by Gustav Klimt of Maria's Aunt. These paintings made their way from the Nazi's to a Austrian museum and became world famous since. Later in life, Maria hires lawyer Randol Schoenberg, grandson of the famous Austrian Arnold Schoenberg, to sue the Austrian government to get the art back. The art restitution case allows the film to weave in the story of the Nazi takeover of Austria and Maria's backstory as dramatic flashbacks. I think this framing ends up working quite well. Randol, played well here by Ryan Reynolds, initially takes interest Maria's case because of the value of the Klimt paintings, but eventually grows to see the case as a matter of moral imperative. 

As you can tell by the other films on this list, I really like the "thorny search for justice" stories of World War II and this is another excellent entry. The film manages to navigate several time periods and genres of film while still putting the characters and performances in the lead. Remember that scene at the end of Titanic where Rose slips off to death (sleep?) and the camera goes into the depths, finds the sunken Titanic, and it's transformed into its original state, and Rose finds Jack with everyone around her cheering? There's a sequence at the end of this film that is similar and it is equally moving. There's something about characters being transported to earlier in their lives like this that connects with me. It's a better film about recovering culture/art that was lost than Monuments Men and a solid entry in dealing with the aftermath. GRADE: B+

15. Denial (2016) IMDB
- Based on a true story, this film recounts the British libel court battle between Penguin Books and and holocaust denier David Irving. Penguin Books published a book by Deborah Lipstadt calling out Irving's holocaust denials. The trial became a battleground for not just the historical case behind the holocaust, but the free speech case surrounding it as well. Further, there's the question of one should even engage with people who deny such things as the holocaust, does engaging dignify them, or does democracy and fairness mean we should? These are some of the big ideas here. Playing the holocaust writer Deborah Lipstadt is a fantastic Rachel Weisz and playing the holocaust denier is a charismatic and energetic Timothy Spall. 

I have to say, I'm fascinated by the implications of this story. One of the central aspects of dealing with the aftermath of a war is telling the story: who were the victors, who were the villains, what were the key decisions, moments, and events. The story of the German persecution and extermination of the Jewish people is a vital one to be told in the war's aftermath. Holocaust denier says it's just propaganda to get the state of Israel more funds and sympathy - it's the victors writing the story. How does a democratic society handle those, like Irving, who brashly and brutely deny such a vital and important part of the World War II story? A denial that spits on the tomb of every holocaust victim? I have to say, given our current world circumstances and the questions about election losses, these ideas are even more pressing

The trial itself is mostly a well executed affair. The dialogue is largely taken from straight from the transcripts and great care is taken to show the different legal strategies employed and the risks they all incur. One risk the film emphasizes is not bringing survivors in to testify, the thinking being that their strategy is to focus on Irving's lies, not on defending the entire Holocaust. Additionally, they don't want the spectacle of Irving trashing survivors, or their memory being incorrect, overlooked, or misremembered. It's smart and a brute reality. It's intelligent stuff that respects the viewers and engages us in the quandaries of the trial. In my holocaust category I quoted the holocaust survivor Elie Weisel, "For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time." This film demonstrates that the fight for truth is not a once and for all battle. It's a fight that every generation, every human brings up anew. GRADE: A-

16. Operation Finale (2018) IMDB
-  It should be mandatory that this film is always watched in combination with 2001's Conspiracy. In that film, we witness the Jan. 1942 Wannsee Conference overseen by Adolph Eichmann where the final solution to the Jewish question was officially endorsed and headed up by Reinhard Heydrich. This is where you see the central role played by Eichmann and after viewing that film - Operation Finale takes on an entirely new context. This film covers the hunt for Eichmann undertaken by Israeli agents. Oscar Isaac plays the head Mossad agent Peter Malkin and Ben Kingsley plays Adolph Eichmann. Mossad has tracked Eichmann to Buenos Aires and much of the film covers the daring (and dramatically embellished) operation to kidnap Eichmann and secretly take him back to Israel to stand trial.

These sequences are well directed by Chris Weitz and mostly played as a special operations thriller. As is standard for films of these kind, Kingsley's Eichmann takes on the nature of a mastermind who expertly tries to manipulate his captors - their sidetalk during capture become obvious stand-ins for the moral discussions that would later surround Eichmann's trial. This is a nice thriller that walks through the basics of spycraft to capture Eichmann while throwing a bone to the reflection on why it is important bring him to justice. GRADE: B