Erratic production values and one-dimensional characterizations severely compromise impact of fitfully affecting Holocaust transport saga “The Last Train.” Pic is thus destined for specialty fests and undiscerning cablers, with solid ancillary classroom use to follow.
In 1943, cross-section of Berlin Jews are herded into a cattle car; unbeknownst to them, destination is Auschwitz death camp. Ex-boxer Henry Neumann (Gedeon Burkhard) quickly aligns with rich kid Albert Rosen (Lale Yavas) to organize a group and thwart baby-faced commanding Nazi sadist Crewes (Ludwig Blochberger). As days pass with no food or water, each principle character is allowed a flashback to happier times. Back in the present, older cabaret singer Rosen (Roman Roth) prepares to sing for a crust of bread: “I’ve played worse audiences,” he scoffs. Genuinely affecting finale plays as if from another movie altogether. With filmmakers as credentialed as helmer Josef Vilsmaier (“Stalingrad,” “Comedian Harmonists”) and producer Artur Brauner (“Hanussen,” “Europa Europa”), pic’s primitive lighting and make-up are a mystery; poorly pancaked thesps on a garishly lit set does not a fitting Holocaust tribute make. Story is credited to “Art Bernd,” pseudonym used by Brauner on similar-themed 2003 misfire “Babij Jar.”