Political ideology loses its merit when viewed through the innocent eyes of eight-year-old children. In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, you quickly understand how depravity escalates when good people simply ‘follow orders.’
The story is set in Nazi Germany and the main character is the 8-year-old son of an ‘important soldier.’ The boy, Bruno (played by Asa Butterfield), finds his world turned upside down when his father receives a promotion. The promotion means uprooting the family from its fine Berlin home — forcing Bruno to leave behind his friends — as they head to the countryside. Although, the boy is slow to figure out what his father does, the audience quickly realizes the father has been given command of a concentration camp.
Bruno loves to read adventure books and wants to be an explorer. His need to explore puts him on the outside of the concentration camp fence where he befriends an 8-year-old Jewish boy, Shmuel, living inside the camp wearing ‘striped pajamas.’
While their friendship grows, Bruno is also being schooled in antisemitism by the family-hired tutor, but Bruno’s humanity wins out as he is soon bringing Shmuel cookies and bread to eat.
As the movie nears its end, the young Jewish boy’s father turns up missing — just like his grandparents did — and the innocent, adventure-seeking Bruno offers to help the boy find his dad.
Bruno’s mother, played by Vera Farmiga, is the moral compass in the story. She knows the stakes are high as she struggles to accept the work her husband does for ‘the good of the country.’ Once Bruno’s mother, though, realizes the odor from the camp’s smoke is burning bodies, she convinces her husband to let the children and her move away since “it is not the place the raise children.”
The father agrees to the request, but tragically it’s too late.
Besides Bruno and his mother’s powerful roles, Lieutenant Kotler (Rupert Friend) serves as a reminder of how some men — filled with nationalism, youthful trust and naiveté — can turn evil when given too much power.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Rated PG-13 for violence, language. You can find this movie on Netflix or at your local video store.