Director: Taiki Waititi.
Cast: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Scarlett Johansson, Taika Waititi, Sam Rockwell, Rebel Wilson, Archie Yates, Stephen Merchant, Alfie Allen.
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The director-writer-actor has been blazing a trail since his second film Boy, which broke box office records in his native New Zealand and highlighted Waititi as an immense talent. To say that talent has blossomed with Jojo Rabbit ignores his previous amazing films - it's more like the Academy has finally caught up to his greatness.
This tightrope-walking comedy/war film follows Jojo Betzler (Griffin Davis), a 10-year-old Nazi living in Germany in the twilight of WWII. An enthusiastic member of the Hitlerjugend (so much so that Hitler (Waititi) is his imaginary friend), Jojo is shocked to discover that his mother (Johansson) is helping a Jewish girl (McKenzie) survive the war.
Hitler as played by Taika Waititi is a comedic masterclass, painting the fuhrer as both figment of young Jojo's imagination and dream father figure/mentor. Part dictator, part absent dad, but all man-child, he’s not a million miles away from the dad Waititi played in Boy. He's also artfully continuing a long line of buffoon Hitlers that dates back to Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator.
It's through Waititi's Hitler, and indeed the rest of his masterful adaptation of Christine Leunens more-serious novel Caging Skies, that Jojo Rabbit laughs at its Nazis and their idiotic beliefs. All the while it walks the fine line of doing this while not laughing at the seriousness of the situation. At its darkest moments it is heartbreaking and even chilling, yet around this, it's hilarious.
This is the core of what makes the film so good and why it is such a worthy winner of the Oscar for best adapted screenplay. Jojo Rabbit is breathtaking in its ability to switch from humour to horror, from dark to light, from thoughtful to absurd. Its snappy editing and canny direction from Waititi also helps, but it is the script that really shines.
It doesn't hurt to have a great cast playing it out either. Johannson is excellent in a difficult role, Rockwell brings beautiful depth to a character that could easily have been cartoonish, while the two juvenile leads of Griffin Davis and McKenzie give turns beyond their years. Merchant is also good in a small role as a Gestapo agent, while Yates is a scene-stealer as Jojo's best mate Yorki.
Topped off with a nicely anachronistic score, Jojo Rabbit is a superb piece of filmmaking on every level. Hilarious yet heartfelt, it is yet another great movie from Waititi.