’13 Minutes’ is an interesting portrait of Hitler’s would-be assassin

Bernd Schuller, Sony Pictures Classics

Christian Friedel as Georg Elser in “13 Minutes.”

“13 MINUTES” — 2½ stars — Christian Friedel, Katharina Schüttler, Burghart Klaußner, Johann Von Bülow, Felix Eitner; R (disturbing violence and some sexuality); Broadway

“13 Minutes” is a biographical drama about Georg Elser, the German citizen who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler in Munich in November 1939. While compelling enough in its own right, director Oliver Hirschbiegel’s film still pales next to its neighbors in the dramatic World War II genre.

Georg’s story toggles between two timelines. Over the opening credits, we see him in an assembly hall struggling to put together the bomb he hopes will end the reign of Hitler, which ultimately detonates 13 minutes after the Fuhrer has left the building. After the explosion, Georg (played by Christian Friedel) is captured swiftly, and the story of his interrogation and torture weaves back and forth with a flashback sequence that shows his political evolution.

The key to both sequences is Georg’s relationship with Elsa (Katharina Schüttler), a married woman he had an affair with in his native German village. It is only after threatening her that Georg’s Nazi interrogators are able to get him to admit to his plan.

The flashbacks travel to 1932, where Georg develops his trade as a carpenter while building his reputation as a ladies’ man. All around, we see the growing influence of the emerging Nazi Party, and for a time Georg is counted among members of the Red Front Party, which draws him accusations of being a communist.

Much of this content is merely context for the story of how Georg came to know Elsa, who was married to an abusive man named Erich (Rüdiger Klink) at the time she met Georg, and well after Georg and Elsa officially began to pursue a relationship (Georg even lived as a tenant in Elsa and Erich’s house for a time).

As Georg is tortured in 1939, simply admitting to his actions are not enough. Georg’s interrogators…

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