The Last Witness is a UK/Polish political thriller directed by Piotr Szkopiak, starring Alex Pettyfer (Magic Mike, I am Number Four), Michael Gambon (Harry Potter, Victoria and Abdul), Talulah Riley (Pride and Prejudice, Westworld), Robert Więckiewicz (In Darkness, The Mighty Angel) and Will Thorp (Coronation Street, Casualty).
The movie tells the story of Stephen Underwood (Alex Pettyfer), an ambitious, young journalist. In 1947, the body of a Polish ex-serviceman is found on a beach near Bristol. This isn’t the first time this happened, but like before, the police say it’s a suicide. Underwood doesn’t believe this explanation and wants to investigate the case. Unfortunately his boss isn’t interested in the story, still, Underwood won’t let go. Others try to dissuade him from his investigation; his girlfriend who is married to an influential, gay man and his brother, who is in the army.
The dead men lived at a resettlement camp for Polish ex-service men who didn’t want to return to their Soviet-occupied home country after the war. Underwood contacts Colonel Janusz Pietrowski, a Liaison Officer at the camp, and finds out about a conspiracy. Pietrowsky tells Underwood about a Russian who also lives at the camp and who saw something, back in Poland, during the war, that might offer an explanation for these alleged suicides.
One night, Underwood enters the camp and steals a diary and letters that are in the possession of the Russian man. The letters belonged to a Polish cadet. Underwood has the documents translated. What he finds out fills him with horror. In 1940, 22,000 Polish officers and intelligentsia were killed in a massacre that would later be known as the Katyn massacre. In 1947, it was said that the Nazi’s killed those men. For many reasons the governments of various countries decided to cover up the the real story and go with that interpretation.
The movie dramatizes this aspect, making it information that had to be kept a secret at any cost. Underwood, who is very persistent, finally manages to find out the truth and puts himself in great danger.
While this film is inspired by events that took place during the war, the story as such is purely fictional. I’m not always keen on films who go as far as The Last Witness in fabricating a story to explore an aspect of the war, nonetheless, I found this very watchable. I actually enjoyed it. I liked the cinematography, the music, the mood, and the actors very much. The movie has a dark, brooding atmosphere that goes well with the tragic theme and heightens the suspense. The end was rather surprising.
A lot of people are interested in WWII but shy away from watching war movies.This film explores an atrocity, but it can still be watched by those who don’t necessarily watch war movies. It’s explicit but not graphic. On the other hand, those who watch war movies must think of this as a thriller, inspired by true events.
The movie is inspired by the Katyn massacre that took place 1940, in Poland. Emilia Szkopiak, Piotr Szkopiak’s mother, was deported to Siberia by the Soviets in 1940. Her father, Piotr Szkopiak’s grandfather, Wojciech Stanisław Wójcik, was executed in the Katyn Massacre. In 1942 Emilia left the Soviet Union and eventually settled in England in 1947 where she continues to live to this day.
If you’re interested in the Katyn massacre, here’s a review of Katyn, an excellent movie on the topic.
The movie is out on DVD and digital on August 27th.
Thanks to Signature Entertainment for letting me view this film in exchange for an honest review.