Movie review of “The People vs. Fritz Bauer”: Burghart Klaussner (“Bridge of Spies”) stars as the isolated, often-sabotaged district attorney, Fritz Bauer, who helped capture Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Twenty years ago, Robert Duvall gave a fascinating performance as Adolf Eichmann, a major organizer of the Holocaust, in a gripping television movie, “The Man Who Captured Eichmann.” Arliss Howard co-starred as the lead agent from Mossad, the Israeli intelligence bureau that caught the Nazi war criminal living under an assumed name in Argentina.
The equally compelling “The People vs. Fritz Bauer” tells the same, factually based story of the 1960 apprehension, but from another end of the suspenseful operation: the discovery of Eichmann’s whereabouts by German prosecutor Fritz Bauer.
Bauer, who spent time in a concentration camp, was renowned for his successful efforts to seek justice and compensation for victims of the Nazi era.
Movie Review ★★★
‘The People vs. Fritz Bauer,’ with Burghart Klaussner, Ronald Zehrfeld, Michael Schenk, Carolin Stahler. Directed by Lars Kraume, from a screenplay by Kraume and Olivier Guez. 105 minutes. Rated R for sexual content. In German, with English subtitles. Seven Gables.
“The People vs. Fritz Bauer” portrays the hard-charging district attorney, tasked with chasing down the likes of Martin Bormann and Josef Mengele, as deeply frustrated and hampered in his work by Germany’s postwar security apparatus, which is rife with former SS men.
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Fed disinformation, monitored, undercut at every turn, Bauer tries to make headway, with the help of a younger, vulnerable lawyer (Ronald Zehrfeld), in a high-risk, treacherous situation that spy-thriller author John le Carré might have imagined.
Burghart Klaussner (“Bridge of Spies”) is mesmerizing as the wary, growling Bauer, crumbling from discouragement and isolation, all while keeping his own secrets (he’s gay) from prying eyes. Danger ratchets up when evidence of Eichmann’s (Michael Schenk) refuge causes Bauer, certain of betrayal at home, to turn to Mossad for help — a treasonous act that could land him in prison.
Co-writer and director Lars Kraume brings muted colors and a claustrophobic, urgent energy to the procedural part of this story, while reminding us that not every moral hero looks like Captain America — in fact, like Bauer, they can be a rumpled, misanthropic mess.