Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

Germany 2015
Directed by
Oliver Hirschbiegel
113 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

13 Minutes

Synopsis: In November 1939 an attempt is made on the life of Adolf Hitler. Georg Elser (Christian Friedel), a carpenter from Swabia in southern Germany, single-handedly builds a complex explosive device and hides it behind the podium where Hitler is to speak. But the Fuhrer leaves the building, unscheduled, 13 minutes before the detonation. Arrested and brutally interrogated, Elser holds out until a threat to his fiancé (Katherina Schuttler) gets him talking.

In his 2004 film, Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel focussed on the last days of Hitler. Returning to related subject-matter he now recounts the efforts of one ordinary German to stop the evil behemoth of Naziism in its tracks.

13 Minutes is at once informative, thrilling, repugnant in parts, and slightly predictable in its structure which alternates between the story’s present and its past. Thus it begins with the first of several brutal torture scenes before flashing back to 1932 where Georg is a carefree young man, full of cheek and flirtatiousness, but also with an obvious strong sense of right and wrong and with many friends affiliated with the Communists, sworn enemies of Naziism. When the film returns to the present and further torment, we see the dichotomy of “good” Nazi, Nebe (Burghart Klaussner) contrasted with the “evil” Gestapo officer, Muller (Johann von Bulow) and this distinction continues throughout the film.

As the flashbacks progress chronologically we learn of Georg’s love for a married woman, Elsa, whose brute of a husband Erich (Rudiger Klink) is like a one-man epitome of all that is disgusting with National Socialism. Erich’s violence towards Elsa is mirrored in the broader community, as the violence to Jews slowly rears its ugly head in the bucolic Swabian village which is Georg’s home.

The film’s biggest strength is the especially powerful and chilling representation of how Naziism inveigled its way into the minds of common people. Georg’s rural community looks innocently beautiful but the underlying fermentation of evil is seen in the children proudly dressed in their Hitler Youth costumes taunting anyone they identify as different. Meanwhile the Nazis seduce the village folk with propaganda film nights, sausage sizzles and promises of only good things to come. As each flashback progresses in time and we see the growing sway of Naziism, we understand increasingly how Georg’s humanitarian and pacifist ideals bring him to the point where he feels he has no choice but to act.

Friedel’s performance is to be strongly commended for perfectly capturing the arc of Elser’s journey from lover of life to its destroyer (the bomb missed its mark but killed eight others, a torment to Elser). Notable also for me is Klaussner’s Nebe, a man who we sense all along is uncomfortable with his duties. Regarding the depiction of torture I felt the film is almost too graphic, especially a scene involving a hanging in which the drawn-out final moments of a man’s life did not need to be so luridly indulged.

Despite the few negatives,13 Minutes is, overall, a beautifully-crafted film, with superb historical recreations, splendid cinematography and excellent performances. Given that the Stauffenberg plot to assassinate Hitler is so well known (Tom Cruise! starred as Stauffenberg in Valkyrie), it is important that the story of this brave man has been told.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst