Had Hitler only spoken 13 minutes longer…thus the film’s title.
A German film with English subtitles made by Director Oliver Hirschbiegel, 13 Minutes is a film likely to disappear quickly from the theater. Though it is well done in every respect, it tells a story involving an excruciatingly tragic ending that makes it unlikely to appeal to most viewers.
Based on a true story, it describes the attempt in 1938 to assassinate Hitler while he was speaking in Munich. Christian Friedel plays the would-be assassin George Elser, and he is arrested soon after Hitler cut his speech short and inadvertently escaped the subsequent massive explosion. As a result, the rest of the film is told in flashbacks as he undergoes brutal interrogation at the hands of the Gestapo while being held in custody.
Initially resisting all attempts to cooperate, he eventually is forced to tell his story when the SS threatens to use the same tactics on his arrested fiancé. You are left admiring Mr. Elser’s quest to save humanity while questioning your own judgment at watching a movie where there is only agony and very little hope.
The biggest problem Mr. Elser had with his interrogators was the inability to convince them that he acted alone. Though one of his principal interrogators, Arthur Nebe (Burghardt Klaussner), came to believe that Elser was telling the truth, Hitler and Goebbels demanded the identification of a conspiracy that didn’t exist. In the process, Elser faced continual torture leading to an ending of expected results.
While the flashback on Mr. Elser’s life revealed the gradual decay of German society as the Nazi grip expanded, the most revealing moments are concern his relationship with Maria, an abused married woman played in moving fashion by Cornelia Kondgen. She was the mother of two young children, and they only sought a way to flee to either Switzerland or the United States to start a new life. That was a dream that they both knew couldn’t happen, and their last moments when she angrily walks away from him as he heads to Munich with unknown intentions is one of the most difficult moments in the movie to watch.
This is a film that in many ways resembles Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). Though it is not as artistically powerful, you are left watching Hitler and his despicable Gestapo minions eliminate anyone who stands in their way of obtaining a racially pure Germany.