Callous as it may sound, when it comes to Holocaust movies, there can be a sense of viewer fatigue. The Nazi atrocities of World War II have been mined in so many movies over the years, from the very good (Schindler’s List, Life is Beautiful) to the not so good (Jakob the Liar), that it’s easy for moviegoers to shrug off the latest effort. That’s not to say that no one should be making movies about those terrible events any longer — it’s more to say that if you’re going to make one, you’d better make it special.
The movie tells the gripping true story of Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz), who as we meet him is supplementing his income working the sewers in the town of Lvov, Poland with petty thievery, stashing his wares underground. Down in the sewers one day, he comes upon a group of Jews who have tunneled into the sewers from the ghetto above. When he threatens to turn them over to the Nazis, they offer a deal: they’ll pay him 500 zlotys a day to keep their secret and, when the inevitable liquidation of the ghetto happens, to help them take refuge in the sewers.
Socha takes the money, and when the horrible liquidation day arrives, there he is, waiting in the sewers as the refugees clamber down to dank, stench-filled safety. He takes in a group of about 15 Jews, including two young children. Is he just in it for the money? Perhaps at first. But as he shuttles the group through and around the pitch-black sewers, illuminated only by flashlight, his mission transforms — and so does he.