'13 Minutes' is the breath-taking story of a man who, in 1939, when Hitler tricked millions of people at the height of his power, dared to do the unthinkable: say no! A man who very nearly could have changed the world.
The film, however, not only hits its target, but does so in such a way that it's nigh on impossible to walk away without a lingering mark. In what could almost be described as a pseudo-prequel to Oliver Hirschbiegel's previous, Oscar-nominated work, 'Downfall' (Yes, of internet meme fame), '13 Minutes' returns to Germany to shed light on the other side of conflict. But instead of following the story of Hitler in the final weeks of World War II, we follow the story of a ordinary citizen as he journeys from simple, womanising carpenter and musician to makeshift assassin and resistance fighter.
Running at just under two hours, it's a relentlessly paced and graphically unrelenting film, racing along from a visually stunning and extremely tense opening to a sudden conclusion that is both simultaneously tragic and a relief. Hirschbiegel smoothly and expertly ties in flashbacks that, while occasionally navigating the passing of time with baffling awkwardness, serve as a refreshing respite from the harrowing torture and punishment. As well as believably shedding light on the moments and situations that led Georg Elser to his fateful decision on that fateful November day.
Equally magnetic is Katharina Schüttler as Elsa, the woman to whom Georg gives his heart. With a life brimming with abuse and tragedy, and yet eyes full of hope and compassion, it's impossible not to root for her. Numerous other characters flit in and out of the narrative, but are generally one-note and vastly unexplored. Whilst there is no truly weak performance, it is only Burghart Klaußner as Nebe that truly stands out from the recurring supporting cast, blessing his German Officer with a subtle shred of concealed decency and empathy.
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