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A group of German Wehrmacht officers and civilians puts together an assassination plan against Hitler. When they take in Graf Stauffenberg, frictions about the proper strategy and the best design for a post-Hitler Germany arise. Several failed attempts further, they actually pull of the assassination, blast the bomb under his table, but because of a combination of unplanned events, Hitler survives. Despite the rebels having taking control of the Berlin government quarters, they are being pushed back and the failed attempt on their leader’s life is slashing back on them.

This film has stirred quite a few questions around its making, and some are actually interesting: There is the question of whether this is a story that needs to be retold again at all, as one would expect it is pretty well-known. But that is probably not true, I suppose the majority of the audience at which the film is aimed (that would be young Americans) will have never heard of Stauffenberg and will be completely unfamiliar with the story and its “heroes”. Also: those who believe to be familiar with the events should be challenged to give a brief account of persons, locations and the course of events. I admit that I got a couple of things wrong in this (such as the location of the “Wolf’s Lair”, where the attempt took place, or the degree to which the SS had already been disarmed and arrested at the time of turning tides in Berlin). It is the great skill of Hollywood script authors that they are (at the best of times) able to condense a complicated scheme into an understandable plot, without denying that they left out things, without pretending to be complete historic accounts.

The film is no historic account, but it works perfectly well as a thriller, and what better indication of this is there than to watch yourself being thrilled during a plot the result of which everybody knows (for similar script stunts see “Titanic”, “King Kong” – yes, the ship will sink, the monkey dies, it’s a ghost, it’s a sledge…). It definitely works much better than the most recent attempt I have seen, the German tv production about the same chain of events.

The one flaw I see is the main actor, who may or may not be a religious jerk, but who definitely does not have the stature to pose as German army officer of noble heritage. He does not look old, noble and military enough. Also, the language challenge (refer to the Kermode review) leaves a bad taste – there is an initial moment where Tom Cruise speaks German with a heavy American accent, then he falls into American, there are English accents and Scottish, if I am not wrong, there are English speakers with German accents and Germans with American accents. It is a bit of a mess, and one wonders whether the film industry will ever reach a level of taste where for a film with all-German characters all-German cast will be used (they are there, believe me). If Mel Gibson can pull that off, why not Bryan Singer and Tom Cruise? It is, at the end of the day, of course the problem of the local film industry not to bring out a blockbuster movie themselves – the capacities in the German studios of Munich and Berlin would certainly exist, but only every couple of years is there a producer daring enough to play along with the big boys and have a production of international value (always the same producer, as it is). As long as this is the case, the funny accents will prevail.

Ebert’s Review

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