Review: 13 Minutes
Christian Friedel stars as Georg Elser, a musician and womaniser who plans to blow up Adolf Hitler. The title refers to the minutes by which his attempted bombing missed the Nazi leader and dictator. Instead, he killed several unintended people. The film begins with his arrest and interrogation/torture by the Gestapo and SS, who refuse to believe that Elser could’ve acted alone in his failed attempt. The bulk of the film flashes back to tell Elser’s story in the lead-up to his assassination attempt on Hitler.
Reading the plot synopsis of this 2015 Oliver Hirschbiegel film beforehand, I was really interested, because I generally like films about Nazi Germany and/or WWII. I thought it might be another tense thriller like “Valkyrie”, as the subject matter was very similar, or the even better “Downfall”, probably the best film of the director’s that I’ve seen. Instead, it’s a fairly flat real-life drama that focuses on pretty much the least interesting elements of its story. Scripted by Fred and Léonie-Claire Breinersdorfer, the backdrop is fascinating stuff, however the main character and performance by charisma-free Christian Friedel couldn’t be less interesting.
Early on you’re definitely hooked, as you can’t believe the hide on the Gestapo thugs who interrogate Friedel’s Georg Elser and ask him what gave him the right to kill innocent people. Yes, Elser did indeed carry out an assassination attempt that resulted in the deaths of innocent people, but his accusers are fucking Nazis! How many people did they exterminate again? Yeah…millions. You don’t excuse bad behaviour by pointing to other bad behaviour, but still it gets you riled up that they try to act all superior here given what we know the Nazis did. Unfortunately, these scenes don’t make up the bulk of the film. Instead we’re treated to the events that led Elser to do what he did. Elser proves to be both incredibly dull and largely unsympathetic. He’s kind of a cad, albeit a cad with a social conscience and the balls to take action. I just didn’t care, and Friedel’s incredibly smug performance is very off-putting. In fairness, the film and character get more interesting once Elser has gotten to the point where he’s compelled to do something, but Friedel’s smug performance is very hard to warm to. If the film were told in linear fashion it’d probably be a lot easier to take, but you’d still have Friedel to contend with, a big stumbling block.
I wish I liked this film, but the first 40 minutes or so are pretty tedious due to the lack of interest in the title character and the manner in which the filmmaker has chosen to tell the story. An oddly uneven and only intermittently engaging film. Watch “Valkyrie” again instead for similar events done with more tension and dramatic interest.