When most moviegoers think of plots to kill Hitler, they think of the fictional slaughter in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. In 13 Minutes, director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall) offers a far less stylized depiction of real-life German hero Georg Elser (Christian Friedel), who nearly succeeded in dropping a ceiling on the Führer's head.
Sadly, Elser failed and was captured, which forces Hirschbiegel to dwell on his protagonist's suffering at the hands of the Gestapo—most memorably in a scene where he vomits after being strapped to a metal cot and flogged. Yet, despite the savage torments Georg endures, you can't look away.
The scope of 13 Minutes, which is in German, is modest—it's largely about Georg's life before the assassination attempt, including his romance with a woman named Elsa (Katharina Schüttler). But it's also a moving tale of a man whose moral awakening forces him to realize that he can't ignore the tyranny of the Third Reich. That may be an old story, but it's also a powerful one, especially in this age of resurgent fascism.
CRITIC'S RATING: 3/4 stars.
Rated R. Opens at Living Room Theaters Friday, August 4.