Rated: R for disturbing violence and some sexuality. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: July 21, 2017 Released by: Sony Pictures Classics
This cinematic cousin of Valkyrie comes from Downfall and Diana German director Oliver Hirschbiegel who puts some disjointed conviction into another Nazi fact-based story with an offbeat, anarchic lead character.
His initially taut but grim and somewhat pallid 13 Minutes (in German with English subtitles) provides some speculative insight into the motivation of one Georg Elser who came close to assassinating Adolf Hitler during an anniversary speech in September 1939 at a Munich beer hall. The early moments are among its best as the clockmaker, carpenter, musician and steelworker edgily sets his plan in motion. The detonation occurs, however, in the titular period after the Fuhrer left the lectern leaving nine victims in its wake and Elser stopped at the Swiss border.
A blinking illumination or dubious brightness corrodes the potential drama from the ardor of Christian Freidel as Elser whose tenets are gleaned from flashbacks as a serial romancer, a peasant religious type witnessing the rise of political power, humiliation of women and ominous children, as well as Swastikas embedded on many items, including bread.
Father/daughter scenarists Fred and Leonie-Claire Breinersdorfer underscore the metamorphosis of an unlikely freedom-fighter who would bed the unhappily married Elsa (Katharina Schuttler) dealing with an abusive, hard-drinking spouse. How their dynamic, intimate and otherwise, unfolds might leave some more detached as the main conflict loses its grip. Especially with austere torture before a confession days later and obfuscation around the gap to the inevitable execution. One drug-induced inquisition sequence almost appears comically over-the-top.
But, discerning cineastes can conclude that 13 Minutes is a lessen known part of history re-enacted with ethical impetus and jarring mechanics that shows Hirschbiegel still has a certain flair in the realm of the Third Reich. It lacks the subtle complexity he staged with precision in Hitler's last days from a secretary's viewpoint, but Freidel is a mostly persuasive figure. One who is best complemented by the mitigating clemency of Burghart Klassner as Neve, the police chief and Johann von Bulow's malevolent Gestapo boss Muller.