Duration: 108 minutes
Story: Written and directed by Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit is based on Christine Leunens's book Caging Skies. The film follows the life of Jojo Betzler, a Nazi fanatic, as he finds out his mother has been hiding a Jew girl in their attic.
Review: Jojo Rabbit has been filmed from the point-of-view of a child, one that wishes to join Adolf Hitler's personal guard, and of course also be his best friend. However, for the time being, Adolf is his imaginary friend, at least the version of Adolf, a 10-year-old could come up with.
Johannes aka Jojo has been living with his mother in Germany run by the Nazis, towards the end of World War II. His father who was supposed to be fighting on the Italian front has lost contact and his sister earlier died of Influenza. Jojo wishes the best for his fuhrer, Adolf and takes every word by his men as the ultimate truth. At the start we see Jojo enlist for a Nazi training camp, where they are taught, Jews are vermins and have to be extinguished.
As the camp proceeded he begins to realise, killing is not something he can choose to do. For him following Hitler meant glory, but he didn't know the cost at which it came. Away from the camp back home, Jojo finds out about the Jew girl, Elsa Korr, his mother has been hiding in their attic. While he thinks about snitching, the counteroffer to study a Jew and save his own life feels more fitting. For the rest of the run time, we follow Jojo as he makes up his mind, to either follow the other Nazis or see the truth for himself.
Jojo Rabbit is more about the effects that war has than, the war itself. The adults in the film are well aware they are at the end of the war and are loosing. You can see them give up on their loyalties but only put up a facade to survive. In several scenes, the lead actors, repeat 'Heil Hitler' to each other, and with every repetition, their conviction dies a little.
World War II was fought on the bases of information or lack of it, and its effect can be seen in the film. False information and lack of communication, about what kind of species jews are spreads widely, and develops the stereotype that they are vermins. But Jojo sees the truth for himself when he actually begins communicating with Elsa.
The version of Jojo's imaginary Adolf goes through drastic changes from the start of the film to the end. While he was a supportive friend at the start, he turns into a dictator, as Jojo perception about him changes. Which is also an indication of how the information war was won and lost. From boosting Jojo's confidence at first, we see him become the monster who would feast on a unicorn, alone! Adolf shows his true colours of a man who is filled with hatred.
Waititi also pays homage to a gay couple in the film, to how women were treated as birthing machines and how most people are gullible if you tell them anything with confidence. There are all kinds of people and their different ideologies, which are portrayed in the film. We get to see them make their own decision and seal their fate without regret.
Film's casting has been incredible, from Jojo to his best friend, Yorki who appears only for a few shots, are still a delight to watch. Scarlett Johansson as Rosie (Jojo's mother) is an anti-Nazi. She is not the only adult we truly get to meet, but her suffering and loss, is felt deeply with the few scenes we get with her. Sam Rockwell as Army officer is the most you bond with. He is the wise man who knows the right from wrong and has the courage to do the right thing.
The comedy and drama in the film go hand in hand. Most of the time, it is the irony that makes you laugh. The screenplay written by Waititi is short and simple, without layering the emotions, we get to see and hear exactly what the maker wants us to feel.
Jojo Rabbit is not a slap on the face for the genocide and the suffering. It is a reminder to the youth today that we get to decide the future for the next generation. Are we to become their Adolf or their Rosie who will support them and let them chose for themselves?
With Jojo Rabbit, director Taika Waititi will lead you to believe that there is still hope for us. But the movie also tells you right in the face that there is only a slim chance of what you are hoping for. We recommend you watch Jojo Rabbit for the laughs, and also a lesson.