There’s more to heroics than dudes wearing masks, capes, spangled onesies, and leotards. And perfect three-point stick-the-landing poses.

That was this writer’s first reaction to viewing the recent Anthony Hopkins film One Life. Hopkins, who once picked up some pocket change playing Odin in Marvel’s Thor franchise and an Academy Award for his creepy performance as Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lector in The Silence of the Lambs, focuses his significant acting chops this time around in the service of portraying real-life British hero Nicholas Winton.

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It’s a performance for the ages, which is not surprising as Nicholas Winton was a man who exemplified Character with a capital “C.”

Winton was one of the architects of the Kindertransport program, which relocated (re: most likely saved their lives) approximately 10,000 children threatened by Nazi invasion. Winton and his immediate circle successfully removed nearly 700 Czech children from imminent death by arranging for passports and transportation to England from Prague. Once their arrival in England was ensured, he and his cohorts (which included his unflappable mother, a German-Jewish immigrant to England) had the children placed with British families.

Hopkins portrays Winton in his later years. Shouldering the burden of playing Winton as a younger man is Johnny Flynn, who depicted David Bowie in 2020’s Stardust and, more recently, Dickie Greenleaf in the Netflix series “Ripley.”

Flynn and Hopkins sync their performances admirably and at no point is the shifting from Winton’s World War II urgency to his modern-day regret at his earlier inability to save more lives jarring. Flynn is compassionate and Hopkins dignified yet resigned. Both actors ably display the same sly humor seamlessly.

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Not only is this a credit to the performances of Flynn and Hopkins, but screenwriters Lucinda Cox and Nick Drake and director James Hawes. As well, the editing (Lucia Zucchetti), cinematography (Zak Nicholson), and music (Volker Bertelmann) are world-class, befitting a film with such a noble story.

Hopkins outdoes himself as an actor as Winton in real life outdid most of his worldwide brethren in saving hundreds of innocent children’s lives from Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. Comparisons to Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List are apt as both films depict the quiet heroics of men dedicated to the just cause of saving lives from very real rather than CGI-generated threats.


The supporting cast includes the always stunning Helena Bonham-Carter and Lena Olin, Jonathan Pryce, Romola Garai, and Alex Sharp.

I won’t spoil the ending, even though I have been aware of the real-life circumstances that inspired it for a long time. Despite that knowledge, I can attest there were few dry eyes in the audience of nearly 200 people I sat with at a special screening of One Life on Thursday night, including my own.