July 26, 2017

13 Minutes: Historical Drama Recreates 1939 Attempt to Assassinate Hitler

Believe it or not, over a dozen different attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler (Udo Schenk) were made until he took his own life in April of 1945. In 1944, Hitler only suffered minor injuries in the bombing that was the focus of Valkyrie (2008), a documentary drama that stars Tom Cruise.

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (Downfall), 13 Minutes describes this first attempt to assassinate Hitler just after he had taken control of Germany. The incident occurred in Munich on November 8, 1939 in a hall where the Führer was scheduled to deliver an address.

Unfortunately, Georg Elser’s (Christian Friedel) homemade time bomb went off too late, because Hitler had already completed his remarks and left the building 13 minutes earlier accompanied by the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels (Ulrich Matthes), Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess, and the architect of the Holocaust, Heinrich Himmler (Ulrich Noethen).

Later that same day, Georg was apprehended when he was trying to cross into Switzerland. Border guards took him into custody after they discovered him with incriminating evidence that led them to believe that he was connected to the explosion.

He was taken to Germany’s Chief of Police Arthur Nebe (Burghart Klauszner) and Gestapo Chief Heinrich Muller (Johann von Bulow) for interrogation, but Georg refused to answer any questions until they threatened to arrest his girlfriend Elsa (Katharina Schuttler). Georg then confessed to protect her, but they still didn’t believe that a simple carpenter could have possibly acted alone to produce a powerful explosive device that claimed eight lives and wounded 62.

So, they resorted to torture to extract the identities of his suspected accomplices who only existed in their imaginations. But Georg had nothing further to share, other than an explanation of how he’d secretly amassed enough gunpowder to construct the bomb.

13 Minutes has an unorthodox story structure, because it opens with the failed assassination attempt, and is followed by a series of Georg’s flashbacks. While behind bars, he reminisces about everything from his disgust with the Nazis to his relationship with Elsa.

Excellent (****). Rated R for sexuality and disturbing violence. In German with subtitles. Running time: 114 minutes. Production Studio: Lucky Bird Pictures. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics.