(MA15+) Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
Starring: Christian Friedel, Katharina Schuttler

by Ben McEachen

Copping flak during his English-language excursion (The Invasion disaster; bemoaned biopic Diana), German director Oliver Hirschbiegel returns to what he does best: Hitler movies. But 13 Minutes takes an opposing side to Hirschbiegel's laudably nuanced Führer study Downfall (2004).

Unlike that instigator of a YouTube parody pandemic, this intriguing biopic focuses on an everyday bloke who tried single-handedly to cause Adolf Hitler's downfall. Played with measured fire by Christian Friedel, Georg Elser was a skilled tradesman who planted a home-made bomb to kill Hitler at a rally.

Resist Googling Elser until after 13 Minutes, to allow Hirschbiegel's overview to tantalisingly tell Elser's tale. The flashback framework eventually settles in and drip-fed vignettes of an unlikely assassin blend potently with graphic interrogation scenes. But the Gestapo's bewilderment at Elser's motives and stratagem may also be yours, as enigmatic Elser is harnessed with fluctuating conviction by this reserved drama.

While his “You have to do what is right” reasoning might be mythologised, Elser isn't deified. Such levity and room for questioning helps 13 Minutes to tick as a worthwhile what-if.

This review was originally published in The Big Issue #488. To check it out, click here.