Movie Review: One miscalculation leads to the deaths of many in the gripping ‘13 MINUTES’


Jared McMillan // Film Critic

Rated R, 114 minutes.
Cast: Christian Friedel, Katharina Schüttler, Burghart KlaußnerDavid ZimmerschiedJohann von BülowFelix Eitner and Udo Schenk

Georg Elser almost stopped World War II before it ever got started. In Munich 1939, Hitler gave something of a town hall speech, all the while a ticking bomb beneath his feet, hidden in the podium’s platform. A bomb built by German-born Elser (Christian Friedel), its meticulous set-up the opening credits sequence of 13 MINUTES.

Of course, it doesn’t work, as Hitler left 13 minutes earlier than Elser’s calculations. Not only did the assassination fail, but he also killed 8 people, including a few innocent citizens working the event. Georg is captured at the train as he is about to flee, where the Nazi officers find his schematics and take him in.

From this point forward, the film becomes a mix of flashbacks and Elser’s interrogation by Nazi officials Nebe (Burghart Klaubner) and Muller (Johann von Bulow). Director Oliver Hirschbiegel, who helmed the fantastic DOWNFALL, creates two different sides of Elser’s life, his past and its correlation to the present. As Nebe uses interrogation/torture to break a defiant Elser, the viewer is taken back to happier times at first.

Elser was a musician and pacifist before the rise of Nazi party. He falls for a married woman named Elsa (Katharina Schuttler), and their relationship, while pure, is constantly mired by the oppression of her abusive husband. Her love subtly changes Georg as he feels helpless in her hesitation to get divorced. This helplessness is magnified by the fact that his town is overrun with Nazi propaganda, buying into the message of Hitler as good for Germany.

Christian Friedel is Georg Elser in ’13 MINUTES.’ Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

13 MINUTES isn’t necessarily a film about World War II, but rather how battle, whether overt or personal, can change humanity. Elser’s convictions changed because what is right is constant in his eyes. Once that logic is skewed by the events growing around him, he sees that Germany will be ruined by Hitler and must protect his home. Conversely, his conviction leading him to act alone creates a paranoia in Hitler as they won’t accept Elser’s confession and proof. He becomes a symbol of independent thought, which is detrimental to a regime built on a collective manipulation.

There is never a lull in the storytelling, even with the sudden jolt to Elser’s past. Friedel is more than capable in Elser’s shoes, creating an almost hero that didn’t care about heroics. There is a full belief from the viewer to the character as he is given depth while being broken down.

Hirschbiegel makes sure to frame the scenes with different tints and effective lighting to elicit a relation to Elser. For example, there is a shot where he is in a movie theater in town, watching news reels before a show. He looks around to realize he is surrounded by Nazis, smiling at the sight of panzers as he looks on in disgust.

13 MINUTES makes sure to give Elser the respect his story deserved. It’s not a great movie, as there are some hiccups that happen in the narrative, But, it is constantly fascinating, and does its job to make you wonder what would have happened if he were successful.

Grade: B

13 MINUTES is now playing in limited release.
Dallas: Angelika Film Center in Dallas

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.