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Film review: 13 Minutes – Downfall director’s portrait of Munich beer hall bomber who nearly killed Hitler

Christian Friedel’s performance as lone wolf Georg Elser, whose bombing of a Munich beer hall missed killing the leader of The Third Reich by a mere 13 minutes in 1939, stands out in a pure good-versus-evil story

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 December, 2016, 8:17am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 December, 2016, 8:17am

3/5 stars

After the highly successful Downfall , depicting the final days of Adolf Hitler, director Oliver Hirschbiegel returns with another second world war tale. Set in Nazi Germany, 13 Minutes depicts a much less well known figure, Georg Elser, who nonetheless would’ve changed the course of history if he’d succeeded in his plan.

A German citizen who was convinced that Hitler was taking the country down a dangerous path, former clockmaker Elser (played by Christian Friedel) tried to assassinate the leader of the Third Reich by planting a bomb in a Munich beer hall where he was due to speak, in November 1939. The bomb detonated, killing seven people, but Hitler survived, having left the building 13 minutes earlier.

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Scripted by Sophie Scholl screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer, the film moves back and forth through time – from Elser’s capture and brutal interrogation back to his days in the small German hamlet of Koenigsbronn, where he meets love interest Elsa (Katharina Schuttler). The intriguing structure aside, 13 Minutes does not deal in cinematic subtleties – it’s a pure good-versus-evil story, trading in bravery and courage, and rarely gets more probing than that.

The portrayal of Elser by Friedel, best known for appearing in Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, is the film’s high point, the actor guiding us through this horror as a lone wolf who simply did what he felt was right. Certainly, 13 Minutes doesn’t boast the power and persuasive qualities of Downfall, due to the rather simplified, sentimental nature of its scripting. But as a testament to a forgotten wartime hero, it’s a credible, well-crafted portrait.

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13 Minutes opens on December 8

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