'Jojo Rabbit' review: A tempest of emotions

'Jojo Rabbit' review: Taika Waititi's World War II satire is a tempest of emotion that tugs on heartstrings

Taika Waititi as Adolf Hitler and Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo Betzler in 'Jojo Rabbit'. Photo: Screenshot/YouTube

Director: Taika Waititi

Cast: Taika Waititi, Roman Griffin Davis, Sam Rockwell, Thomasin McKenzie

Score: 4.5

In a world ruled by serious World War II films and powerful war documentaries, one man has taken upon himself the task of bringing a dash of comedy into the final days of the war but somehow manage to keep a strong message embedded into it. This is Jojo Rabbit.

Ten-year-old Jojo Betzler is a proud fanatic, yearning to fight for Adolf Hitler in the Hitlerjugend, even as many of the upper officers of the Nazi war effort are casually admitting that the enemy is at the gates. Unfazed by talks of defeat, Jojo pushes on, confident in his self and all around him - till he meets a Jew hiding in his walls, shaking the foundations of his belief.

Jojo's life is filled with hate and disdain for Jews. He lives every day believing that the Nazis will win, and even treats his own mother with disdain when she speaks in support of ending the war regardless of who wins. His indoctrination is clear as day, seen through his imaginary friend Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi) and his belief in Nazi propaganda that Jews are literally monsters.

Jojo Rabbit is, ultimately, a tempest of many emotions brought together into a 110-minute long film. Adapted from Caging Skies, the film takes one through a rollercoaster filled with happiness, sadness, melancholy, despair and anger with finesse and care under Taika Waititi's watchful eyes and quirky style so clearly seen in 2017's Thor Ragnarok.

The film is about letting go of hate just as much as it is a comic satire. It is filled with colourful characters like Captain K, a man who is clearly not feeling the war effort but does his best to act his part, Rosie Betzler, Jojo's ever-optimist mother who took a great risk in hiding a Jew; Esla Korr, the Jew in question who carries a burden of being emotionally alone and Adolf Hitler himself, played with much irony by Waititi, who happens to be a Jew but still brings through a bit of the persona Hitler was known for when the time calls for it.

Jojo and Elsa, being the central pair of the film, are in many ways like two sides of the same coin. While Jojo goes about doing Nazi things, hoping one day to be part of Hitler's personal guard, Elsa somehow takes it upon herself of removing the indoctrination ingrained into Jojo. As his mother says in the film once, there is the little innocent kid inside Jojo the fanatic, struggling to come out; and this struggle is presented beautifully by young Davis as he learns from the people around him and gradually sheds the guise of a Nazi. In many ways, he is the reflection of the youth today, who have been conditioned by factors within and without to look for the 'other' who doesn't fit their narrative and single them out as evil and huddle in with 'us', who are 'superior' or 'better' in some imagined way.

It is not hard to see why the film has garnered controversy among some sections. One could make an argument that the presence of 'good' Nazis in the film is presenting a Nazi sympathising message, but if one listens, one will realise that the so-called 'good' Nazis in the film were never bad at all. Captain K, for example, clearly shows love and care for Jojo and doesn't believe one bit in Nazi anti-Jew propaganda. But there is always the Gestapo, who rightfully carries the air of fear in the short scene they are present in the film, carrying disastrous consequences for everyone involved.

Overall, Jojo Rabbit is a potent film. It has everything mentioned above and more, while never taking itself too seriously or pretending to be something it's not. It is, to put it shortly, a 110-minute-long emotional ride to be experienced.

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