Hanna's War

  • 1988
  • 2 HR 28 MIN
  • NR
  • War

One of Israel's great martyrs, Hanna Senesh, a Hungarian-born poet and daughter of a prominent playwright who emigrated to Palestine in 1938, is the subject of this well-intentioned film. Recruited into the British secret service in 1944, Senesh (played here by Detmers) was parachuted into Yugoslavia with instructions to make her way into Hungary, where...read more

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One of Israel's great martyrs, Hanna Senesh, a Hungarian-born poet and daughter of a prominent playwright who emigrated to Palestine in 1938, is the subject of this well-intentioned film. Recruited into the British secret service in 1944, Senesh (played here by Detmers) was parachuted

into Yugoslavia with instructions to make her way into Hungary, where she was to help establish escape routes for downed Allied fliers. Promptly captured, she was taken to Budapest, tortured, tried, and finally executed even as Soviet tanks were entering the city. Today she lies in the martyrs'

cemetery on Mt. Herzl. That this fascinating story, the stuff of true heroes, deserves wider renown is almost certainly what prompted Israeli producers Golan and Globus to make HANNA'S WAR. This could have been a fine film in different hands, but under Golan's direction it all becomes utterly

trivialized. The absolute nadir occurs as the Jewish fighters join with the Yugoslavian guerrillas to attack a German train they believe to be carrying weapons. To a thumping, Eurodisco, pseudo-CHARIOTS OF FIRE score, they charge, taking heavy casualties and killing scores of Germans before

capturing the train, which turns out to hold half-dead Jews bound for the camps. This scene had potential for real power but ends up flat and banal simply because of its music. The gorgeous Detmers' commitment to the part is obvious; but, with the exception of the torture scenes, she seems just

too glamorous and singleminded in her devotion to her mission to be human. Burstyn, despite top billing, is in only a few scenes and leaves little lasting impression. On the plus side, however, are the performances of Warner and Pleasence, two of the best bad guys in the business. Released in

Israel on the 40th anniversary of independence, this is clearly Golan's heartfelt attempt to make a patriotic classic. Just as clearly, he has fallen short of the mark.

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