Review by Mark Merrell
A Captivating Walk Back In Time Alongside A Man That Tried To Change History
Growing up in Germany, Johann Georg Elser, (Christian Friedel, The White Ribbon, Amour fou, Russendisko), once a happy go lucky young man, began to take heed of the dramatic changes to his country during the mid to late 1930’s. Hearing of atrocities taking place during the invasion of Poland. Witnessing friends incarcerated for standing up against the growing Nazi party and it’s leader Adolf Hitler, or for being singled out and persecuted for following the Jewish faith. Georg decides to take matters into his own hands, and by himself, attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler. 13 Minutes is based on his true captivating story from the pages of history.
It’s November 8, 1939. As the film opens, we see Georg planting explosives into a cut out wall of brick. Working in the dark, with a flashlight dangling from his mouth, he painstakingly crafts his bomb, finishing it off with an ingenious handcrafted trigger device. Carefully, he disappears into the night, making his way to the German/Swiss border.
Nearing a fence with wire cutters, Georg is stopped by German soldiers, and detained at the local jail. He empties his belongings, amongst which are building diagrams. Hitler, meanwhile, is making a speech to a roomful of Nazi party members at the Burgerbraukeller in Munich, Germany. Georg nervously keeps looking at his pocket watch in his jail cell. An explosion is seen in the darkness from a distant view of Munich.
The Germans soon determine that the building plans are those of the Burgerbraukeller, where the attempt on Adolf Hitler has taken place. Georg soon finds himself being interrogated by German soldiers, including Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klaussner, Goodbye Lenin, The White Ribbon, The Edukators), a stern and foreboding figure. Once the questions begin with the basics, such as his name, Georg, instead of answering, begins humming a song.
The film then flashes back to a more innocent time in Georg’s life. Thus begins a sequence of witnessing Georg’s current plight, along with look-backs to his past, which includes a growing infiltration of Nazi party members, propaganda, and an increasing climate of intolerance of those not wishing to assimilate to the Nazi party. There is also a growing hatred of Jewish people, along with anyone associated with them.
Much of the focus in Georg’s past is centered on, Elsa (Katharina Schuttler, Free Fall, A Coffee In Berlin, Sophiiiie!), as they try to nurture their love for each other in the backdrop of growing tension and coming war.
Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall, The Experiment, The Invasion, Five Minutes Of Heaven) 13 Minutes is so skillfully painted on the screen through it’s actors portrayals, set design, wardrobes, vehicles, dialogue, and direction, that It completely envelops the viewer into this moment in history.
The film was written by Fred Breinersdorfer (Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank), and Leone-Claire Breinersdorfer (The Man From Beijing, Die Glasblaserin). Their gift of character development and dialogue delivers, keeping you interested throughout the movie. The musical score by David Holmes (Oceans Eleven (Twelve/Thirteen) Zoolander, Five Minutes Of Heaven) provides just the right touch for the film. Finalizing the effort is Cinematographer Judith Kaufman (When We Leave, 4 Minutes, Two Lives) who does great job, both beautiful and haunting in its presentation.
Everyone of the actors presented their characters perfectly, with Friedel showing the way, along with Schuttler, Klaussner. Johann Von Bulow as Heinrich Muller, Rudiger Klink portraying Erich, Felix Eitner as Hans Eberle, David Zimmerschied as Josef Schurr, and Simon Licht as SS Obergruppenfuhrer were exceptional, as was the entire cast. Nice job by one and all.
13 Minutes could well have been a one dimensional film, but this group provides us with just the opposite. Several underling elements are also addressed, including people injured and killed in Georg’s attempt to assassinate Hitler, but that just one of the multilayered facets of this great film. The German soldiers, driven by Hitler’s paranoia that others had to be involved, cannot believe Georg when he flat out tells them what he really thinks of Hitler, that he did the job single-handedly, while he chillingly predicts the downfall of Germany through the inevitable war ahead. It also underscores how a mere 13 minutes can make such a huge difference in destiny.
A fascinating film on many levels, as harrowing as it is profound and interesting, 13 Minutes is absolutely a must see film.