One Life – Anthony Hopkins, An Undeniable Greatness Shines Once Again

MOVIE REVIEW – Anthony Hopkins, the unrivaled monarch of understated and introspective roles, steps into the shoes of Nicholas Winton, the heroic figure who saved the lives of 669 children by transporting them to safety from Czechoslovakia before the Nazi invasion. Hopkins’ artistic authenticity and the weight of the narrative walk hand in hand in this extraordinary biographical film. This creation is a deeply moving story based on true events, which found its unusual way to the big screen, but leaves a profound impact on its audience.



This heart-touching, albeit occasionally clichéd true story took an unconventional route to cinema’s big screens. It would hardly have been possible without a segment aired in 1988 on the BBC’s “That’s Life” program, which gained significant viewership on YouTube, featuring Nicholas Winton, an elderly London stockbroker, discussing his rescue of 669 mostly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia before the Nazi invasion. Unbeknownst to Winton, the audience was filled with survivors, who one by one stood up to thank their savior.



In the Shadow of the Past


James Hawes’ drama, produced with the cooperation of BBC Films, introduces this heartwarming tale with caution. Samantha Spiro takes on the role of Esther Rantzen, the host of the BBC’s “That’s Life” program. To give a bit of context about this British show: “That’s Life!” aired on the BBC from 1973 to 1994 and became known as a consumer advocacy and satirical magazine program. The show regularly featured humorous elements, such as unusually shaped vegetables, humorous poems, newspaper errors, and performing pets, like “talking” dogs who could pronounce the word “sausage.” The segment that inspired the film, therefore, was a stark departure from the show’s usual fare.

Anthony Hopkins portrays the leading role of Winton, who, having previously watched the occasionally silly and not always humorously ridiculous show with detached interest, now confronts its deep emotional impact. Winton, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 106, might have remained in the obscurity of suburban anonymity had his extraordinary deed not been revealed to the world.

“One Life” spans two different periods: it showcases Winton’s retirement years and the time just before World War II in Prague, where he aided refugees. Earlier events are depicted in a clear, straightforward style, avoiding excessive realism justified by the circumstances’ gravity. Johnny Flynn plays a young Winton as initially confused but committedly socialist, who later realizes the situation’s severity and tackles bureaucracy with great organizational skill. Romola Garai portrays Doreen Warriner as a determined, purposeful woman also conscientiously involved in aiding refugees. Helena Bonham Carter embodies Winton’s supportive mother, mastering the portrayal of middle-aged women. In a scene, when a foreign office official asks her where she is from, her firm response of “Hampstead!”—with a German accent—reflects a sense of identity and pride, showcasing her character’s strong personality and self-awareness.



Character and Depth from the Timeless Anthony Hopkins


The film is dominated by overly stylized, elegant lighting, especially noticeable on the muddy, grimy depiction of children, but the viewers are discerning enough to notice and interpret the unspoken details. This repeatedly confronts us with the tension many Europeans felt as the impending disaster of the late 1930s approached. The story is compelling, even if we know the outcome.

However, “One Life” truly shines in its later scenes. Few can deliver such a standout performance at this stage of their career as Hopkins does. At eighty-six, he remains the actor who is a master of subtle, restrained play—seemingly absorbed in his thoughts, as if observing something intriguing at the tip of his shoe. He is currently playing a robot in Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon and will soon embody Sigmund Freud in Freud’s Last Session. Here, however, he examines a deeply British, simple honesty. At the story’s start, as the former City of London banker counts the change in charity collection boxes and hears news of the 1987 stock market crash, he merely murmurs, “deregulation!” as if critically reflecting upon himself.

These details aim to showcase the characters’ depth and complexity and shed light on the historical and social context in which the story unfolds. Such subtle references and the portrayal of characters help the viewer better understand the spirit of the times, as well as the diversity of personal and community responses to historical events.



A Historical Conscience


Early in the film, Winton organizes a chaotic office and contemplates what to do with an album detailing the evacuation. After a meeting with Robert Maxwell’s widow—a soon-to-be disgraced owner of the Mirror and also a Czech émigré—the documents end up in the hands of That’s Life, ensuring Winton’s late fame. What sets the film apart from ordinary TV movies are Winton’s efforts to confront the long-suppressed traumas experienced during those months in Prague. Who was left behind? What more could have been done? The screenplay contains few such elements, but Hopkins conveys this through every gesture, downcast look, and hesitant hesitation.

Lena Olin delivers a solid performance as the supportive wife. Jonathan Pryce also plays a significant role as one of the few surviving colleagues from the rescue.

“One Life” may not bring revolutionary innovations to filmmaking, but it tells a touching, stirring story. It also provides an opportunity for an unquestionably great artist to show what he is capable of once again.

-Gergely Herpai (BadSector)-




One Life

Direction - 7.2
Actors - 8.2
Story - 7.5
Visuals/Music/Sounds - 7.5
Ambience - 8.2



"One Life" brings a deeply moving, true-event-based story to the screen, centering on Nicholas Winton's heroic deeds, saving 669 children from certain death. Anthony Hopkins' brilliant performance once again proves his unmatched ability to convey genuine humanity and deep emotions. While the film may not offer revolutionary innovations in cinema, it carries an important message that is worth viewing by all ages.

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BadSector is a seasoned journalist for more than twenty years. He communicates in English, Hungarian and French. He worked for several gaming magazines - including the Hungarian GameStar, where he worked 8 years as editor. (For our office address, email and phone number check out our impressum)

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