Taika Waititi’s World War II based satire ‘Jojo Rabbit’ claims the most recent spot in the meteoric rise of the Maori director. Oscar nominated early in his career for the superb short ‘Two Cars, One night’. Since then the director has only gone from strength to strength from his involvement in the hugely popular series ‘Flight of the Concords’ to original features such as ‘Boy’, ‘What we Do in the Shadows’ and ‘The Hunt for the Wilderpeople’. All of these were set in his native New Zealand before being given the keys to one of Marvel’s most beloved with ‘Thor: Ragnarok’. One of the more creative installments in the marvel franchise, as he managed to bring a fresh twist to a franchise that was, at times, fairly formulaic. Now cashing in on the huge success of Ragnarok, Taika Waititi returns with an adaption of the novel ‘Caging Skies’, written by fellow New Zealander Christine Leunens. The film follows young Nazi fanatic Jojo, a recent addition to Hitler’s Army, and as he tries to be the best Nazi he can be, with the help of his imaginary friend Adolf. Jojo soon realises his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their home and his strong Nazi beliefs are put to the test.
To satirise such a dark moment in human history is incredibly brave. If done wrong or in poor taste could result in harsh backlash, which from some critics has been the case when discussing ‘Jojo Rabbit’. However much of the response has also been very positive and I would have to agree with the latter. Taika Waititi has built a career on witty, satirical comedy that tends to be based in family dynamics and relationships. Each step in the film’s narrative is well executed in leading to its finale. The director’s comedic signature is well balanced with satire and quieter, more serious moments that help in hitting home the film’s message. Furthermore Waititi continues to show a talent for directing and trusting child actors, a skill which can sometimes overlooked.
Much of the supporting cast is filled with household names and years of experience, such as Oscar winner Sam Rockwell, Marvel regular Scarlett Johnasson and Game of Thrones star Alfie Allen. However for leading man Roman Griffin Davis, this is his first feature role and the same can be said of Archie Yates, also wonderful, who plays his best friend Yorki. Davis is a revelation, who sells every action with ease and shows no lack of experience in executing comedic or dramatic scenes. As a result Jojo is a fascinating character and functions as a challenging point of view into this world. His relationships with his imaginary friend Adolf, the girl hiding in his house Elsa, as well as his mother Rosie, help to show the confused world of this young boy. Taika Waititi plays a scathing satire of Hitler that is difficult to wrestle with in the early stages, due to the director being such a likeable person himself. However once settling in the portrayal finds it feet and the mockery of one humanities worst is achieved. Finally none of this would be successful without Thomasin Mackenzie who plays Elsa. Her portrayal of the young girl hiding in the walls is instrumental to the film’s success, as she brings wit, heart and humanity to a set of characters that are generally lacking anything close.
‘Jojo Rabbit’ will probably continue to divide audiences due to its difficult subject matter that beneath the satire and light-hearted comedy is still one histories darkest moments. For many it will be harder to overlook what took place in order to enjoy what’s onscreen. However Taika Waititi puts forward a brave and scathing satire that has the director’s signature character tropes and smart witty comedy throughout. It is clear it was never the film’s intention to tackle some of the greater aspects of World War II, that is asking for another film entirely. ‘Jojo Rabbit’ picks it spot and sticks the landing gracefully.
Written by Conor Crooks
STAR RATING –★★★★
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