Alone in Berlin

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Vincent Perez

Starring

Brendan Gleeson Daniel Brühl Emma Thompson

Anticipation.

Some top acting talent involved in this wartime literary adaptation.

Enjoyment.

World War Two has been done to death, and this adds little new to the busy landscape.

In Retrospect.

Passable, robust, solid, but nothing more than that.

A grieving couple decide to take on the Nazis in this drab wartime thriller that’s noticeably short on thrills.

A bit of a middlebrow snoozer this one. Alone in Berlin is a film about the power of activism, the dangers of revolution, and the anxiety that comes with making the decision to take a shot at the highest powers in the land. Sadly, the film itself doesn’t chose to take inspiration from any of the story’s central themes, offering the most basic and workmanlike rendition of a 1947 novel by Hans Fallada that was loosely based on true events.

The image of Germany during World War Two was that it was a festering hub of evil populated by bloodthirsty fanatics happy to stand by as an entire race of people is exterminated on their watch. But this film suggests it was all propaganda and that there were people who stood at odds with the violent will of the Führer. Otto and Anna Quangel (played by Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson doing “cherman” accents) receive first-hand experience of the Nazi meat grinder when they find out that their beloved son has fallen while on duty.

Far from just waving it off and accepting that their beloved offspring died for a greater cause, Otto and Anna instead decide that enough is enough. They can’t see the point of all this warmongering, especially as most of it seems to be at the expense of normal working class folks expected to give blood for a system that offers them no real benefits in return. And so, they begin to pen seditious postcards with slogans that sully the good name of Adolf Hitler and leave them around the streets of Berlin. The SS go bananas and employ Daniel Brühl’s gestapo inspector to track down the perpetrators.

All the ingredients are there: cloak-and-dagger schemes executed under cover of night; a seemingly incorruptible antagonist who will stop at nothing until he’s snagged his man; ripe contemporary resonances about how resistance – whatever form it takes – is never futile. But director Vincent Perez has turned in a handsome but undercharged and dramatically flat version of these events.

It hits all the right emotional beats exactly on cue, almost to the point of tedium. It takes no risks with the visuals, capturing the action in the most basic and safe way imaginable. In all, this feels like a missed opportunity, with Thompson and Gleeson doing little more than keeping time as unlikely radicals wanting to risk their lives in memory of their son.

Published 15 Jun 2017

Tags: Brendan Gleeson Emma Thompson

Anticipation.

Some top acting talent involved in this wartime literary adaptation.

Enjoyment.

World War Two has been done to death, and this adds little new to the busy landscape.

In Retrospect.

Passable, robust, solid, but nothing more than that.

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