13 Minutes (2016)
We start out in black, but we hear someone who is struggling while working on something. A flash light appears and shines a light into a hole in a wall. A man is stuffing dynamite into that hole. We see the man, named Georg Elser(Christian Friedel), is holding a flashlight with his mouth as he works furiously. He checks to make sure that his timing device will trigger, and then he checks his watch and sets the time on the device. He painfully gets up and next places the timing device carefully next to the dynamite. He rubs his knee and then places boards back into the wall to cover up the bomb. Having competed his work, he grabs his bag and starts down the hallway. He is now in a meeting hall, and he walks by a desk that has a placard that says, “The Fuhrer’s Table.” He stops in front of a lectern and looks up to where he placed the bomb, and now we know he plans on killing Hitler.
It looks to be the next day, and we learn that it is in Munich on November 8, 1939. The hall is filled with Nazi soldiers who rise as one to give Adolf Hitler the “Sieg Heil’ Nazi salute to their leader. Hitler is introduced to the crowd and then steps up to the microphone directly underneath where the bomb is located. Hitler motions to the crowd to sit down and begins a speech. As Hitler is speaking, we cut to a boat that is letting off passengers, and we see Georg stopping to look at his pocket watch. We continue to hear Hitler’s speech as we see that Georg is now in the town of Konstanz, Lake Constance as he walks quickly through a busy city street. He stops and turns down a street to avoid a Nazi checkpoint. Georg turns down a street, goes through a couple of gates and pulls out some cutting shears in front of a long and high fence. Just then, two guards stop him and ask what he is doing. Georg makes a feeble excuse, and we can see from the guard’s reactions that they don’t believe him. We cut back to Hitler making the speech, and we then see a bunch of soldiers listening intently next the wall with the bomb. We cut to Georg being searched by a German officer at a jail. He pulls out the plans for the bomb as well as Georg’s official papers. Georg is thrown into a cell, looks nervously at his watch, thinking by now his bomb has gone off and Georg’s life will never be the same.
German director Oliver Hirschbiegel brings us the brutal story of the man who tried to assassinate Hitler. Hirschbieger goes back in time to show us the seeds of why a musician in Germany would be motivated to seek to kill Hitler while most of his fellow countrymen adore their leader. We jump back and forth from Georg’s life to his being viciously being tortured for a confession by the Nazi’s. His chief interrogators are an SS honcho named Heinrich Müller (Johann von Bülow) and Nazi Police Chief Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klaubner). Müller is convinced, like Hitler, that Georg did not act alone due to the amount of dynamite that was used and the sophistication of the bomb. Müller will stop at nothing to get Georg to confess, with his favorite technique of tying Georg upside down on a metal bed frame and using all sorts of torture devices, including bats and heated pins under Georg’s fingernails. The police chief is more about trying to reason with Georg, getting to know him and his beliefs.
Through the flashbacks, we see that Georg was something of a playboy, wooing the women with song. Georg is a sensitive man who feels the pain of his fellow man as the Nazis start targeting the Jews and Communists. He never goes over to the Nazi party and is persecuted because he never joined ‘the Party.’ Georg is a devoted Catholic who is nonviolent until he decides that Hitler must die or he will eventually destroy his beloved country. The film shows as the year’s progress, more and more of the town is brainwashed by the Nazi propaganda. It’s fascinating to watch the years go by seeing Germany through Georg’s eyes as he observes the changes in his town’s culture. Georg’s world is changed when he meets and seduces a married woman named Elsa (Katharina Schüttler). Elsa is captivated by Georg, mostly because while Georg is kind, Elsa’s husband is a drunk and beats her.
Director Oliver Hirschbiegel gets incredibly moving performances by Christian Friedel and Katharina Schüttler. Schüttler is brilliant as the woman who finds love in a man that finally treats her with respect and passion. Her scenes with Friedel are magical full of intensity and warmth. Friedel gives a powerful performance as a man who used to be carefree and quite the ladies man but as the years in Germany give way to Nazi crackdowns, he slowly loses everything he finds dear, including friends and family.
A bit of warning; the torture scenes are graphic and hard to watch, but this film is worth seeing. 13 Minutes is about a man and a country on a crash course, one that little-known but this movie corrects that. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
For more of Mike’s reviews and interviews click here