His physique was a weapon, his soul collateral harm.

That in a terse nutshell is the wrenching real-life story of Harry (born Hertzko) Haft, the tormented hero of HBO‘s powerful film The Survivor, airing in honor of this week’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah). Harry is launched with fanfare as “the pride of Poland and the survivor of Auschwitz” as he enters a boxing ring in post-World War II Coney Island.

But every punch Harry absorbs carries with it a jarring flash of PTSD trauma, transporting him and the viewer (in vivid black-and-white flashbacks) to his time within the Nazi focus camp, the place he was stored alive solely to pummel doomed fellow prisoners for his or her sadistic captors’ amusement.

With unflinching realism and compassion, director Barry Levinson (Rain Man) frames this transferring story of redemptive grace as something however a triumphant sports activities story. The Survivor is extra about one man wrestling with the demons of grief and survivor guilt.

The outstanding Ben Foster undergoes an excessive bodily transformation from the taut, emaciated prisoner to the beefier Americanized refugee, cautious and coiled in opposition to any of life’s challenges. He yearns to struggle the legendary Rocky Marciano within the ring—not a lot for the slim likelihood of victory, however with the distant hope that the next publicity may assist him reconnect and discover the love of his life, who disappeared within the camps.

For Harry, failure within the ring pales subsequent to the ethical compromises he made whereas captive, occasions he finds laborious to share with a sympathetic reporter (Peter Sarsgaard) and even his personal spouse and youngsters.

“Nobody wants to hear the truth about the camps,” he insists. Which is hardly the case, though the Auschwitz scenes are actually nightmarish and tough to observe, with Billy Magnussen riveting because the Nazi ringleader who urges Harry to maintain combating for his life, albeit at a dreadful price to his human spirit.

But as Harry’s brother (Saro Emirze) argues, “Why did you survive if not to live?”

The Survivor, Movie Premiere, Wednesday, April 27, 8/7c, HBO

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