Picks and Pans Review: Wallenberg: a Hero's Story
NBC (Monday, April 8, 9 p.m. ET)
And here's another hero's movie, this one telling the story of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish dilettante turned diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis. Richard Chamberlain as Wallenberg is as charismatic as ever; nobody can make the small screen look bigger than he can. It's fascinating to see how he outsmarts the Nazis. And his meetings with Adolf Eichmann (played by Kenneth Colley) are riveting moments with cool, sharp tension flowing under the surface. The story has courage, tragedy, warmth and even humor (a Budapest nightclub singer belting "Schtormy Wetter" to the Nazis). But Wallenberg, like Nightingale, crumbles when it tries to dig down into emotions. This time, the problem is the script. It has Wallenberg's mother telling him: "When you were a little boy, you'd run into lightning storms." We don't need that line to tell us he's foolhardy in his bravery. The same goes for Chamberlain's declaration: "I will go to any lengths to save lives!" We know. And Chamberlain's love story with Alice (Ellis Island) Krige as a beautiful baroness is tacked on like an afterthought. Television, it seems, is so used to manufacturing heroes that it gets a little flustered when a real one comes along. (Part Two airs Tuesday.)
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