Picks and Pans Review: Murderers Among Us

updated 04/24/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/24/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sun., April 23,8 P.M. ET)

B

The story of Simon Wiesenthal's life is remarkable. As a Jew in a concentration camp, he was randomly singled out and forced to hear the confession of a dying Nazi so he could grant his forgiveness. Because he was an architect and could draw, his life was spared at the last minute so he could paint a pretty banner that read WE THANK OUR FÜHRER. And because he could draw, he was able to record the atrocities he witnessed in secret sketches that he used to begin his life's work of hunting war criminals. Murderers Among Us shows us this remarkable life and does it well—thanks in great part to Ben Kingsley, who approaches the role of Wiesenthal with his customary devotion and intensity; he is a sort of British Dustin Hoffman. But Murderers faces the same paradox as every drama about the Holocaust: It is important to remember the evil of the concentration camps but if you try to portray it, you risk trivializing it. It is not enough to show us a Holocaust survivor's memories, so Murderers shows us his nightmares—and still the scenes cannot be awful enough. Murderers does not succeed in bringing new insight to the banality of evil, the balance between justice and revenge or the lessons of the Holocaust. Instead, it gives us one remarkable story, simply told.

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