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Haven
cast: Natasha Richardson, Hal Holbrook, Martin Landau, Anne Bancroft, Colm Feore

director: John Grey

176 minutes (12) 2000
Odyssey
DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Peter Schilling
We have all seen Schindler's List, or at least know the main story. In Haven, journalist Ruth Gruber (Richardson), battles American bureaucracy and transatlantic logistics to save 1,000 Jewish refugees from German persecution. Of course, it's all based on a true story...
   This three-hour TV miniseries, shorn of commercial breaks and repetitive title credits zips along, and feels much shorter than it actually is. The filmmakers push the narrative on, relentlessly, using 'gritty' b/w documentary footage combined with flashbacks in romantically lit monochrome, to generate the essential mood of impending holocaust. Sadly, they cannot avert the inevitable result: Hollywood sensibility overrules unpolished realism, so even the newsreel clips appear to be manufactured then inserted to plug holes in the plot. The expansive sets built to show living conditions onboard the rescue ship fails to convince and this curiosity of re-staging undermines our sympathy. When William Petersen pops up to imply US government complicity in Nazi genocide, it sounds more like monstrous State incompetence than chilling revelations of an historical conspiracy.
   Also among the support cast, Landau and Bancroft are on hand, playing Ruth's parents, while Holbrook co-stars as the political figure dealing with Jewish immigrants. This being a TV production, it ends happily enough for those who escaped the tragedy of 1940s' Europe.
   DVD extras: The Making Of Haven featurette, plus interviews with the main cast, Paulette Breen (producer), and the real Ruth Gruber. On screen text notes, biographies, and a trailer.
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