13 MINUTES (Germany/Club/114mins)
Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel. Starring Christian Friedel, Katharina Schüttler, Burghart Klaußner, Johann von Bülow, Felix Eitner, David Zimmerschied, Rüdiger Klink
THE PLOT: Georg Elser (Christian Friedel) is a man who could have changed the world; on November 8th 1939, Elser rigged a bomb in Munich which, had it gone off 13 minutes earlier, would almost certainly have killed Adolf Hitler. After the bomb plot is unsuccessful, Elser is caught and tortured to give up the names of those who he was working with. As Elser considers his options, he thinks back on his life, a life full of peace and tranquillity until he day came that he could not ignore the fact that Hitler was leading Germany into war.
THE VERDICT: 13 MINUTES is based on the life of Georg Elser, whose attack on Hitler cam just moments too late. The film is a look into the life of a man who seemed to want to spend his time making music and spending time in the company of women, but found himself radicalised in the face of the growing power of the Nazi Party.
Christian Friedel carries the film as Georg Elser, and brings a quiet dignity to the character who is described as a person who’d ‘rather be beaten to death than give in’. Friedel allows the character to slowly be radicalised; he rails against the treatment of his friends and colleagues as the small town he inhabits is slowly turned into a Nazi stronghold. Katharina Schüttler plays Elser’s former girlfriend Elsa, and she is magnetic and charming in the role. The rest of the cast is made up of Burghart Klaußner, Johann von Bülow, Felix Eitner, David Zimmerschied and Rüdiger Klink.
The story, written for the screen by Léonie-Claire Breinersdorfer and Fred Breinersdorfer follows a man whose idea has informed the plot of many a time travel movie and TV show; let’s kill Hitler. The film romanticises Elser to some degree, and pulls the affair with the married Elsa to the fore, perhaps for the sake of filling the 114 minute running time or perhaps to give us another reason to root for Elser. There are times when the balance between past and present in the film; between torture and freedom is not quite evenly struck, which then means that the pacing of the film suffers. That said, it is interesting to watch the slow radicalisation of a gentle man on screen, and to watch his loyalties change.
Director Oliver Hirschbiegel previously brought us the slow burning thriller Downfall, and the much less successful Diana; 13 MINUTES falls somewhere between these two. Less of a slow burn than Downfall, 13 Minutes is about the changes a man goes through in his life, at a dangerous and violent time in our history. The balance between the frivolous times in Elser’s life, and his time in the lands of some of the Nazi Party’s most vicious men is almost evenly struck, but the film feels incredibly drawn out in places and, since we know the motives of Hitler and those around him, while the film is interesting, the ending feels like a foregone conclusion.
In all, 13 MINUTES is an interesting tale, and raises the age old question of ‘What If’ one of the plots against Hitler had been successful, although the film almost always sticks to the truth of the matter, and does not try to theorise how our world could be different. Christian Friedel carries the film, although there are times when the pacing suffers due to an imbalance in storytelling between past and present.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

13 Minutes
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.5An interesting tale
  • filmbuff2011

    If you thought the only genuine attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life during WWII was that conducted by Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators (as depicted in Valkyrie), then think again. There is another true story – a lesser-known one, but still equally deserving of being told. 13 Minutes is the story of Georg Elser (Christian Friedel), a simple, ordinary carpenter and clock-maker living out his life in the backwaters of Germany. In November 1939, he planted a bomb at a podium in a hall in Munich, where Hitler addressed a rally. The bomb went off and killed 8 people – but sadly not Hitler. For Elser had mis-timed the bomb and Hitler had left the hall 13 minutes before it went off. Elser is caught fleeing and is taken into custody and interrogated by Nebe (Burghart Klaubner). Nebe is incredulous that Elser could conceive, plan and execute a bombing like that all by himself. Believing him to be linked to communists, Nebe tries to extract the truth. But the truth is that Elser is a far more complex and brave man than Nebe gives him credit for. In occasional flashbacks, we discover his life years before: his tender, tentative romance with abused housewife Elsa (Katharina Schuttler); and his growing disillusionment with German society and the rise of Nazism. This is a man who wants to save Germany from itself – and the evil that has infected it… Returning to his native Germany after the disastrous, much-derided Diana, Oliver Hirschbiegel is back on form with a companion piece of sorts to Downfall. Looking back into Germany’s dark 20th Century past often makes for good storytelling, but it has to be justified. This story feels justified and distinct enough to separate it from the Von Stauffenberg plot. For one, there’s nothing outwardly remarkable about Elser. He was just one man who saw past the swastika, the propaganda and the rhetoric, to instead see the man who would plunge Germany into war, at the cost of some 55 million lives. Brilliantly played by Friedel, it’s an under-stated performance that really captures your attention on a gut-level. Hirschbiegel is not really interested in the mechanics of the bombing, or building up tension to the explosion. In fact, he dispenses with that in the first few minutes. He’s more interested in revealing layers of Elser’s character and the Nazi’s attempts to break him down. It’s a gripping film, but in a unconventional way that pays tribute to Elser’s efforts. If you enjoyed Downfall or Valkyrie, then this simple but effective film will both entertain and inform you. ****