The Berlin Film Festival really couldn’t have got off to a better start for Oliver Hirschbiegel, as his latest Nazi-themed big-screen adventure was picked up by Sony before a frame was even screened. This is a suitable endorsement for a film that represents the director’s return to the German language and – to a certain extent –his return to form, after a couple of underwhelming forays into English.
13 Minutes looks at the attempt by Georg Elser, played with talent and charm by Christian Friedel, to assassinate Adolf Hitler at a Munich Beer Hall in 1939. The title is a reference to the amount of time by which the bomb designed to kill the Führer missed its target, and the film deals principally with Elser’s past and the aftermath of the lone-wolf strike at Hitler, flitting between the two.
Elser’s small-town origins and his love affair with a married woman (Katarina Schüttler) are used to extract a certain emotional investment from the audience, the dividends of which Hirschbiegel collects across the course of the fierce interrogations and torture that follow the bomb.
Though aesthetically very polished and with a capable cast, the film isn’t without its problems. Firstly, if the title led you to expect just under a quarter-of-an-hour’s action, then you may well be sorely disappointed. With a 114-minute running time, one can’t help but feel a more succinct feature may have actually given the audience more.
As is all too easy with a subject matter such as Nazi Germany, nuance proves difficult to achieve; good is good and bad is bad. The brutal inquisitor – played by Johan von Bulow – is a cartoonish bully, and everything is spelled-out in crystal clear images, leaving little to the audience’s imagination.
All in all, 13 Minutes can be expected to have some reasonable success with what is a steady, if not slightly limited, look at the German resistance to the country’s worst hour. Hirschbiegel may not have reached the heights of Downfall, but this is work he can certainly be proud of.
13 Minutes does not yet have a UK release date.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Berlin Film Festival 2015 visit here.
Watch the trailer for 13 Minutes here: