(2001)3.5Elbert VenturaThis wrenching Holocaust film tells the story of the Sonderkommandos, squads of Jews in the death camps who performed the Nazis' dirty work -- presiding over the inmates' extermination, loading the dead into ovens, shoveling the ash of the newly incinerated -- in exchange for a brief reprieve from death. Based on a play of the same name by director Tim Blake Nelson, The Grey Zone is an earnest, if problematic, evocation of the 20th century's darkest moment. Nelson's interrogation of the moral conundrums that his characters face takes the form of a stage-bound script that is too declarative by half. Compounding matters is the too-familiar cast; recognizable faces like David Arquette, Mira Sorvino, and Steve Buscemi are a constant reminder of the movie's artifice. Flawed as it is, The Grey Zone carries undeniable visceral impact. The film offers perhaps the most unflinchingly brutal depiction of the workings of a death camp ever captured in a fiction film. Although some critics have suggested that Nelson's meticulous re-creation somehow trivializes its subject, The Grey Zone never comes across as an exploitative effort. In a way, the movie's unrelenting horror, its aversion to affirmation, and the complete absence of redemption are a testament to its integrity, if not an outright rebuke to recent Holocaust films that, inadvertently or not, have domesticated the tragedy to appeal to mass audiences.