Friday, 21 August 2015


Oliver Hirschbiegel's Downfall felt like part of a nation's attempt at understanding its shameful history; Oliver Hirschbiegel's 13 Minutes feels like an attempt at understanding one man, from filmmakers who already seem to think they do. The process of rendering extraordinary moments in history as banal accounts of contrived histrionics and faux nobility is one well covered in cinema, a tradition that informs 13 Minutes down to the slightest stylistic detail. It's not merely a humdrum film, it actually makes its remarkable true story seem humdrum too. Christian Friedel plays Georg Elser, a man who singlehandedly concocted a plan and created a bomb that very nearly killed Hitler mere weeks into WWII, and who was then incarcerated in Dachau until the end of the war, when he was shot dead just days before the camp was liberated... but that's not important. What's important is that he's a sensitive, charming, intelligent, honorable, non-violent, self-righteous, sexually-irresistible, morally-infallible genius! Women fawn over him, the Nazis respond to his pompous animosity with patience and reverence, and history shines upon him as one of the great human beings of all time. Hooray! 13 Minutes offers a few tantalising hints - intriguing suggestions of where its historical inquiry may lead - about a deeper, richer purpose to its pretentiousness: a potential rumination on the endurance of ideas and independent thought. These hints are few, though, and that inquiry never truly materialises - this screenplay already knows it has all its own answers, and is so eager to prove it that it gives its own game away in the first ten minutes, which are its strongest by a clear margin. Humdrum, hokey and an almighty missed opportunity.