‘Balloon’ movie review: German thriller about daring Cold War escape over Berlin Wall falls flat

Director Michael Herbig's film sees two families attempt to flee East Germany via gigantic hot-air balloon

Kelly Fung |

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Planning to cross the Inner German Border during the Cold War in a gigantic hot-air balloon may sound crazy, but it felt like an obvious step for the Strelzyk and Wetzel families.

While the Soviet Union and United States continued their rivalry, many normal people tried to escape East Germany, but were hindered by the Berlin Wall.

Balloon tells the story of two friends, an electrician and bricklayer who, deprived of a life of freedom in East Germany, see no future there. Their best hopes lie in West Berlin and they devise a plan to fly their families over the guarded concrete barrier in a hot-air balloon.



After two years of planning and constructing the aircraft in secret, they take to the sky; the entire film builds up to this moment. But the filmmaker also decided to make this a mainstream thriller that lacks any depth in the script.

German comedian and director Michael Herbig tries hard to keep tensions high throughout, with a frantic filming style and first-person camera angles.

The movie focuses on the excitement with limited exploration into the social context or character development. The escape itself is captivating, but the overall story arc is anticlimactic.

Based on true events that took place in 1979, Balloon does what it can to capture the buzz of a great escape, but more focus was needed on the film’s brave souls.