Even those familiar with the famous July Plot of 1944, in which a group of German officers led by Claus von Stauffenberg tried to kill Hitler, may not be aware that it was the last of more than a dozen planned or attempted assassinations.
The one detailed in this film, which missed its intended target by the title's number of minutes, took place barely two months after the war had begun, in the same Munich beer hall where Hitler had staged his abortive 1923 grab for power.
History robs the film of suspense potential, of course; the bomb goes off and the would-be assassin is captured in the first few minutes. What remains reads like a noble, but slightly worthy, attempt to disinter the reputation of a man largely forgotten in Germany until the publication of a 1999 biography.
That man is Georg Elser, a leftist unionist whose motives for the attempt, as this film has it, had much more to do with the class struggle than the geopolitical one. The film tells his story by flashing back from his brutal interrogation and torture to his earlier life as a carpenter and steel-mill worker, showing the development of his resolve and the flowering of his love for a married woman.
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Hirschbiegel, whose 2004 portrait of Hitler's last days, Downfall, has sagged under the weight of years of online parody, bounces back from the turkey Diana with a handsomely mounted biopic that never really transcends the limitations of the genre.
In part, that's because the script's Elser isn't really that interesting a man. A scene that underlines his earlier pacifism ("force never solved anything") seems too deliberate and, in any case, we have no great sense of what prompts his change of mind about that.
The film is at its best when it riffs on his relationship with his interrogators, who are desperate for his help in providing an extravagant fictional confession to please the boss.
Klaussner (The Edukators, The White Ribbon) is excellent as the complicated Nebe, whose eventual fate fairly drips with irony (although his hideous execution scene is gratuitously prolonged), and Friedel makes an engaging and persuasive central figure.
But as a whole, it's a film that may appeal more to World War II geeks and students of German history than an audience at large.
Cast: Christian Friedel, Katharina Schuttler, Burghart Klaussner, Johann von Bulow
Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel
Running time: 114 mins
Rating: R16 (violence and content that may disturb) In German with English subtitles
Verdict: Accomplished if slightly worthy.