There have been so many WWII era movies that another one hardly makes a blip these days. What sets the new German import 13 Minutes apart from so many others is that it dramatizes a story that most have either read about or, at the very least, learned about in history classes but probably know few details.

It’s the tale of George Elser (ably portrayed by Christian Friedel), a resistance fighter who set up an explosive device inside the lectern of Adolph Hitler that was intended to put an end to his rise to power in November 1939. Unfortunately, Hitler left early (13 minutes to be exact, hence the film’s title), Elser was detained while attempting to hightail it to Switzerland and the rest is history. The film makes an attempt to dramatize both the aftermath and the events leading up to Elser’s capture by authorities.

Elser’s backstory is told in flashbacks that take the narrative back to the year 1932. The film flashes both forward and backward as the film’s dramatizes both Elser’s political awakenings and Hitler’s rise to power. Elser’s romance with a married woman trapped in an abusive marriage also takes up a good chunk of the film’s narrative. They eventually conceive a child together, which undoubtedly played a part in Elser’s decision to take a stand for the greater good. After all, who would want a child coming of age in a world dominated by Hitler? It’s clear that’s a question Elser must have asked himself at some point.
Kudos must be given to the pitch perfect evocation of WWII era Germany that dominates the film. Though we’ve seen the time and place recreated in many films dealing with this subject, this one can go toe to toe with the best of them in terms of production design.

No one will ever accuse 13 Minutes of being subtle in its message. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Certainly there are parallels that can be drawn to current events, regardless of whether this was the intention of the filmmakers or not. It serves to remind us of the dangerous waters that misguided leaders who are drunk with power can lead us into if a society isn’t paying dynamic and vigorous attention.  If nothing else 13 Minutes could serve perfectly well as a cautionary tale and that would be fine with me.

13 Minutes is playing in Charlotte at the Regal Park Terrace Stadium 6.

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