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Overall Rating
4.68

Awesome81.32%
Worth A Look: 13.19%
Average: 1.1%
Pretty Bad: 1.1%
Total Crap: 3.3%

4 reviews, 67 user ratings


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Downfall
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by Scott Weinberg

"The Last Days of the World's Most Justifiably Hated Man"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL: It only stands to reason that one of history's most despised and justifiably vilified people would also be one of the most fascinating. German filmmaker Oliver Hirschbiegel apparently thinks so too, and his stark depiction of the dictator's final days are brought to horrifying life in "Downfall" - a movie that's not really a whole lot of fun, but manages to command one's unflinching attention for 150 straight minutes.

As I sat through the 2001 documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary, I found myself absolutely amazed that we were now privy to the thoughts and recollections of one Traudl Junge, a perfectly sweet little old lady...who was, indeed, the personal secretary of one Adolf Hitler. She was there when the Third Reich was riding high, and she was also there at the end at the downfall of last century's most hated villains. Hitler is a man who's taken on an almost mythical stature, as if he never really existed as a real man, but as a symbol of the ultimate evil that men can do.

But Adolf Hitler was, of course, a real man. And you're not likely to find a more accurate and harrowing depiction of Hitler's final days than the new German film Downfall. Directed with stunning intensity by Oliver Hirschbiegel (who most recently directed the very different - but also excellent - thriller Das Experiment), this is an oppressive, albeit endlessly enlightening, affair. A brave and altogether sobering project, Downfall works as both historical drama and insightful history lesson. Anyone who's wondered about the perpetually raving Hitler and his final demise will find much to appreciate in Downfall. But don't for a second believe that, because this is a German film, the movie sympathizes or soft-pedals the horrifying nature of Hitler. One is left with a portrait of a man who, in his own mind, was perfectly clear and intent on his goals. Those who wish to dismiss Adolf Hitler as a simple madman will find those suppositions dashed quite effectively.

Based on a variety of historical resources, Downfall drags you down into that infamous bunker, where Hitler and his countless cronies tried desperately to stay afloat while the Russian allies were carpet-bombing Berlin with endless barrages of artillery. There's a glum resonance and inevitably dark pall cast over the proceedings that suits the subject matter perfectly. The filmmakers retain an admirable objectivity throughout the entire film; we don't need to be told that Hitler was a horrible man. Herschbiegel seemingly wants to remind us that he WAS a man - a nefarious and endlessly hate-filled man, but still just a man nonetheless.

Bruno Ganz portrays Adolf Hitler with a jaw-dropping intensity, carefully avoiding the goose-step caricature that most movies choose to employ. It's a brave decision for the Swiss actor to take this role on, and Ganz is deserving of the highest accolades imaginable. His performance is altogether stunning. As perhaps the most humane character on display, Alexandra Maria Lara (as Traudl Junge) is the perfect counterpoint to Ganz's venomous characterization. As Downfall unfolds, the viewer is desperate for a few small semblances of decency, and Lara's wide-eyed humanity is the life-jacket we so seriously need.

On the visual end of the spectrum, Downfall is altogether staggering. Despite the fact that most of the movie takes place in a subterranean concrete fort, the film never seems overly claustrophobic or oppressive. And when the surviving members of the rapidly waning Nazi elite finally venture out into the war-torn German landscape, the exteriors are nothing short of staggering. How the filmmakers were able to recapture this sort of urban destruction is beyond me, but it sure does make for some harsh and painfully effective moviemaking.

You may want to keep a copy of "Toy Story 2" close by for when "Downfall" comes to a close. It's a seriously fascinating and technically brilliant film...but 'fun-time' it surely is not.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10634&reviewer=128
originally posted: 09/16/04 06:36:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/27/16 Ken Very well done movie from Germany. 5 stars
4/13/15 Trev29 better tittle is DOWN TRASH 1 stars
4/13/15 jokerass lol 1 stars
4/13/15 jokerass LOL this movie 2 stars
1/18/15 PAUL SHORTT INSTRUCTIVE, ENGROSSING STUDY OF THE CRUMPLE OF AN INDIVIDUAL AND AN IDEOLOGY 5 stars
1/09/15 michael overrated piece of crap 1 stars
10/01/12 scott maxwell a good movie 4 stars
4/04/12 Marty Drags on a bit, but some very eerie scenes here. stark look at nazism 4 stars
5/08/10 millersxing My favorite WWII film because it tells the unspeakable story without artifice. 5 stars
2/12/10 R.W.Welch Grim, realistic account of the Reich's last days. Remarkable recreation of the time. B+ 4 stars
2/26/08 pkr quite mediocre and over-beautified story of last days of adolf. 3 stars
2/10/08 Mark Excellent filmmaking, fantastic cast! 5 stars
1/10/08 V Incredible, especially Ganz 5 stars
11/16/06 David A towering achievement. 5 stars
11/04/06 AP Astonishing acting by Bruno Ganz and an incredible movie experience. 5 stars
10/04/06 dickie t best film I've seen this year 5 stars
6/19/06 John Kiene A truely great work of film production in every way, outstanding 5 stars
6/13/06 Luis Morales Hard to find fault with the content and the acting. 5 stars
5/19/06 chienne Yes, a creepy, yet compelling film. Brilliant. 5 stars
5/12/06 SpyV Facinating, horrifying. Required viewing. 5 stars
4/16/06 CPT Hoolie Stunning. Incredible performance by Bruno Ganz 5 stars
12/20/05 rk best movie I saw on DVD in 2005; an unexpected gem; highly recommneded 5 stars
10/08/05 ElizabethQ Exelent movie! Very real,well plaied 5 stars
9/22/05 Phil M. Aficionado Strong is the best word ... strong in every way. Still astonishing after all these years. 5 stars
9/16/05 tatum Straightforward telling with phenomenal acting 5 stars
8/23/05 Ole Man Bourbon A somewhat interesting historical hypothetical, may take some liberties to glorify chars 4 stars
6/25/05 Mark Holmes Fabulous 5 stars
6/16/05 adrian ace love nazi wwII movies and this is one of the best 5 stars
6/15/05 Dave Fan-Dabby-Doby 5 stars
6/13/05 Monster W. Kung Extremely well done. 4 stars
6/12/05 matthew smith a powerful history lesson 5 stars
5/23/05 Dom Tough, but watch it 5 stars
5/23/05 Green Gremlin The best German war movie since "Das Boot". 5 stars
5/12/05 Beardog8 Great performances everywhere 5 stars
5/06/05 MR Peabody Superb! 5 stars
4/27/05 Elizabeth S Excellent! 5 stars
4/24/05 Henry Hopton Truly excellent. An outstanding representation which is horrifically real. 5 stars
4/24/05 John Bale Devastatingly realistic, Ganz's Hitler given depth by outstanding performance 5 stars
4/24/05 Arnold An epic film. As a history enthusiast, I am of the opinion that this is (by far) the best t 5 stars
4/21/05 Graham Just-the-facts approach to a touchy subject, and all the better for it. 4 stars
4/14/05 Frenzy bad 4 stars
3/25/05 craig varney this movie has no downfall 4 stars
3/13/05 Mark Fulwiler an outstanding achievement 5 stars
3/12/05 Mussolini It should have been me!! 5 stars
3/07/05 John stunning performances in a great film 5 stars
3/02/05 Littlepurch Horrifying,disturbing,yet utterly brilliant.Couldn't lk away,much as I sumtimes wanted to. 5 stars
2/01/05 Matti Söderberg Really stunning performance by Ganz. Third Reich inside a single bunker. 5 stars
1/15/05 pramod good 4 stars
1/12/05 Irene Heller Incredible. Thought-provoking, informative. Ganz' acting superb. Should be seen . 5 stars
1/11/05 Declan Crean Best film i've seen in years.Hard but brillant 5 stars
12/10/04 Ralph Jas Incredibly gripping film. A brave attempt indeed, and a triumph in every conceivable way. 5 stars
12/04/04 Harvey Flinder A staggering achievement. On every level this gets 10 / 10. See it 5 stars
12/02/04 Nick deecee "Blows you away! One of the best historical films of all time!!" 5 stars
11/09/04 Silke Stunning Movie 5 stars
10/26/04 Judith Absolutely stunning performance and still as fact-based as can be, not a Hollywood epic 5 stars
10/25/04 tom A very realistic depiction of Hitler without the "Hitler is bad" propaganda of Hollywood 5 stars
10/25/04 Flupptrack One of the best movies about WWII ever made 5 stars
10/09/04 Andy I'm only 17 and it gave me an insight into life 60 years ago. Horrible but fascinating!!! 5 stars
10/05/04 Jafet Israel Lara This is the best film about HItler´s life (the last 12 days). Bruno Ganz is perfect. 4 stars
10/04/04 Solidus68 He asked them to kill, and they obeyed. Watch the movie and you'll understand why. 5 stars
10/04/04 Jonathan Skeet Difficult to watch... 4 stars
9/30/04 zuckuss13@aol.com Brilliant film, amazing acting. Had to come to Berlin to see it. 5 stars
9/24/04 Mike Strange to see Hitler portrayed in this way. Very worthwhile watching! 4 stars
9/23/04 Kjelt A perfect movie with a stunning performance by Bruno Ganz. 5 stars
9/22/04 mr kotwurst one of the best german movies of all times. 5 stars
9/18/04 Martin Superbly acted and authoritatively realistic.An experience that will haunt you for days. 5 stars
9/17/04 Richard Lush A brilliant lesson for today. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Feb-2005 (R)
  DVD: 02-Aug-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  21-Apr-2005




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