The Thin Red Line (1998) Part III Nature and Evil

This great evil. Where does it come from? How’d it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who’s doin’ this? Who’s killin’ us? Robbing us of life and light. Mockin’ us with the sight of what we might’ve known. Does our ruin benefit the earth? Does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night? (Private Witt)

What’s this war in the heart of nature? Why does nature vie with itself? The land contend with the sea? Is there an avenging power in nature? Not one power, but two? (Private Train)

Is there evil in nature? Is man part of nature? If man is part of nature and man is evil, then nature is evil? Are nature and man one? Or is there a distinct dichotomy between man and nature?

Besides offering a profound meditation on Death and Dying The Thin Red Line also explores the topics nature and evil in different ways. Two positions are explored. Position one  assumes that man is part of nature and since he is capable of evil, nature is not all good. This idea is supported by Lt.Coll Tall when he speaks to Cpt Staros who wants to save his men. Tall shows him the lianas that suffocate the trees. This is evil, according to Tall, as it will kill the tree. Nature is not all good. He tries to make Staros accept evil because he thinks it is inevitable and part of nature.

Other scenes support this. In the beginning of the movie we see a little bird, probably he fell out of the nest and seems to be struggling for his life. We see him, his fight and we know he will die. Nobody did this to him, it just happened. It’s the way of nature.

One of the powerful symbols is the crocodile. In the beginning of the movie we see him swim freely, dive, in the end he has been bound by the men. He cannot harm anymore but he is subjugated.

The second line of thinking says that nature cannot be bad. Only man can be bad. We know the term of natural death. As I said in Part II death is part of nature but the death on a battle field isn’t natural, it’s man-made. This line of thinking supports that man has left the realm of nature, is not part of nature anymore.

Even if there are bad things in nature, nothing as bad as war can happen without man’s doing.

The Thin Red Line is set in the Pacific, on the Solomon Islands, a place to which hardly any Americans or Europeans had gone before the war. An island with a lush vegetation and a population not knowing anything of Western civilisation. The movie begins with idyllic scenes among the natives. They live in harmony with nature and its rhythms.

When the soldiers later disembark on Guadalcanal, an old native man passes them by but doesn’t even acknowledge them despite the heavy gear they are carrying and the clothes they are wearing. They are only foreigners. The natives and their land do not know yet what they bring.

War has come into this tropical paradise and not only does war kill men, it destroys nature. The men are surrounded by tall grass, hiding in it, but the bombs and grenades destroy this lush paradise and transform it into arid land.

The end of the movie seems to want to say that no matter how much man tries to destroy nature, nature will survive and the film ends on a last picture of a sprouting  coconut.

These reflections on nature and man’s nature are very old. Philosophers like Rousseau have dedicated whole books on this. Rousseau thought that man was born good but society, or culture, made him bad. In his Discourse on Inequality you can find the following passage.

The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody. (Rousseau 1754)

Here are

Part I The Review

Part II On Death and Dying

Part IV The Actors and the Characters and Part V The Thin Red Line vs Saving Private Ryan are upcoming.

The Thin Red Line (1998) Part II On Death and Dying

Sergeant Storm: It makes no difference who you are, no matter how much training you got and the tougher guy you might be. When you’re at the wrong spot at the wrong time, you gonna get it.

You are going to die. I am going to die. We are all going to die. It is inevitable. The difference lies just in whether we want and allow to be reminded of the fact or not. Whether it makes us feel uncomfortable or not and to what degree.

The way death and dying are shown in The Thin Red Line will trigger three different ways of reacting:

  • We see it and allow to be reminded of our own death which will make us feel uneasy and sad to different degrees
  • We see it and look away or feel nothing
  • We see it and make fun of it

These three ways to react to someone’s dying can also be found as reactions in the movie.

I would argue that there is not one war movie out there that thematizes death, dying and killing like it is done in The Thin Red Line. I would also say that I think that this may be one of the reasons some people have a problem with it as the death scenes are very intimate, very intense. We have people who die screaming, people who die swearing, some pray, some mumble, some are quiet. This is quite usual in war movies but we have also an emphasis on those who watch them which is unusual. The importance of looks in The Thin Red Line would be worth a chapter on it’s own but I will only focus on the looks related to death and dying.

We have those who look away when someone is dying, no matter how close they are to the person. And we have those who acknowledge the others dying. Some are moved by it, some are not. Watching someone die is a very intimate act, if you think of it. Being with someone during his final moments is a privilege. Private Witt gives each and every single suffering man his full attention, looks at him unflinchingly but also unobtrusively and with compassion.

There are also the looks directed at the dying enemy. They are very different. They are indecent almost. Some make fun of them, stare, strip them off their dignity. Witt also looks at the enemy with the same intent attention and compassion.

In the movie there is equally a meditation about death’s randomness as expressed in the quote by Sgt Storm at the beginning of this post. Why does one man die while the other who is maybe a far lesser soldier survives unharmed? This is something that has been on my father’s mind a lot. When he was drafted he was heartbroken and hoping to get killed on the battlefield. While his friends and comrades died, he didn’t get one scratch. My father has not one tiny little scar, yet he eagerly awaited death. This is mysterious and the movie shows this exceptionally well.

Death is part of nature (which I will try to analyze in part III) but the dying on a battle field isn’t natural, it’s man-made.

Killing is also a theme. Although it is legally acceptable to kill someone on a battlefield, in a war, soldiers didn’t kill lightly. I use the past tense deliberately because movies – or series in this case – like Generation Kill - and also already some of the Vietnam movies – show that there are more and more soldiers who have no empathy for those they kill. Those who play war games may see a running person at a distance not like a human being but just like another target. And they certainly don’t feel guilty.

The soldiers in The Thin Red Line do not kill lightly. They do feel guilt and the term “enemy” doesn’t mean much anymore once they have shot him down with their own gun.

One of my earliest posts on this blog focused on the topics Death and Dying. You can find it here:  On Death and Dying or Why War Movies Teach Us a Buddhist Lesson. Nothing has changed in my perception since then. I still think that the way death and dying are treated in our society is very problematic. We have to accept the fact that they are part of life. All war movies deal with death and dying but not all involve the viewer as much as the The Thin Red Line. Like hardly any other movie it manages in a very subtle way to raise the awareness for our own mortality.

The following parts are upcoming:

Part III. Nature and Evil

Part IV. The Actors and the Characters

Part V. Saving Private Ryan versus The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line (1998) Part I The Review

Sometimes we watch a movie and love it. A few years later we watch it again and have no clue why we ever liked it. This happened to me a few times, fortunately it isn’t all that often.

I have seen the The Thin Red Line three times by now, the first time I liked it so much that it actually triggered my interest in war movies.

The second time, shortly after the first, I still liked it a lot. But that was 7 years ago and since then I have seen numerous other movies, excellent ones, good ones and abominable ones as well.

Watching it for a third time made me somewhat wary. What if…?

I shouldn’t have worried. After watching it for the third time I think it is the most radical, most thoughtful, most provocative and most difficult anti-war movie that has ever been made.

The Thin Red Line is truly a lyrical and poetical meditation on death and dying. It’s far more than just a war movie. It is transcending the genre.

I decided to dedicate more than one post to this stunning movie, exploring different aspects (something I would like to do for other movies as well in the future).

I will cover the following topics.

Part I. Review

Part II. On Death and Dying

Part III. Nature and Evil

Part IV. The Actors and the Characters

Part V. Saving Private Ryan versus The Thin Red Line

Part I The Review

In many war movies there is a bridge to defend, an outpost to be kept or a hill to be taken. Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, based on James Jones’ eponymous novel, tells the story of the taking of a hill. It’s 1942, on the island of Guadalcanal, which is part of the Solomon Islands, in the Pacific.

The movie opens on an idyllic scene. Two soldiers, one of them Private Witt (James Caviezel) have gone AWOL. They live among the natives in a paradise-like place. They swim and play with the kids, surrounded by the beauty of tropical nature. This will not last. A patrol boat will come and get them and together with the other soldiers from C-Company they are sent on a mission to take a hill on top of which is a Japanese bunker.

This is one of those typical suicidal missions. Driven by a mad Colonel (Nick Nolte) who cares about nothing but his own glory the men are led by the gentle and courageous Cpt Staros. Staros cares for his men, unlike Colonel Tall and even risks being court-martialled for disobedience in order to save his men from certain death. Tall wants them to attack frontally despite the fact that the Japanese have all the advantages. They are well dug in, sheltered by their bunker, looking down on those crawling men. Staros wants to bypass the hill. A far better and careful decision that was made after seeing how the situation really was, while Tall decided from afar, having no clue how the situation looked closeup.

The scenes that follow the beginning are alternating between intense infantry combat, scenes of dying and death, nature shots, interior monologue in voice-over and also flashbacks of the soldiers lives before the war. Witt thinks of his childhood and the peaceful idyll in the tropical paradise, Staros is very religious and Private Bell imagines his wife and their love for each other.

The losses are high, the death scenes harrowing and gruesome. Thanks to Staros’ disobedience the attack doesn’t lead to total disaster and the men are victorious in the end. However he has to pay a prize, he will be sent away under the false pretense of suffering from malaria. No matter how many soldiers’ lives he saved, he will never ever be in command again.

The Thin Red Line draws a few interesting character portraits to which I will come in Part IV of this series.

The score of the movie has been written by Hans Zimmer and underlines the poetical versus brutal aspects of the movie.

If you already want to know more about the cast here is an earlier post: My Favourite War Movie All-star Cast

Where Eagles Dare (1968) War Themed Action

I’ve never seen Where Eagles Dare before and must say I was pleasantly surprised. It’s entertaining and cinematographically stunning.

It’s a fabulously scenic film with some pictures that would even look good in a vampire movie. Plus we get to see two great actors, Clint Eastwood and  Richard Burton who, teamed up, give this movie a special something that I found very appealing.

The story is the tale of a suicide mission. A group of mountaineering soldiers, led by British Major Smith (Richard Burton) and American Lt. Schaffer (Clint Eastwood) are sent to free an American officer captured by the Germans and held in a castle in the mountain, called Eagle’s Nest.

From the moment they parachute out of the plane it’s obvious that the mission they are on is a fake one. What they really need to do, is uncover double-agents.

From the moment they land in the snow-covered woods, until they climb into the castle, the action and tension is relentless and is even intensified, when they have to escape from the castle again.

It’s quite a violent movie, with loads of explosions and a great deal of merciless killings. But it is also very suspenseful, there is plenty of action reminiscent of a modern-day movie. (It seems as if this was Quentin Tarantino’s favourite war movie and that he wanted to do a remake. I hope he will not and that the similarities one can find in Inglourious Basterds is all there will be.)

It was a pleasant surprise to find a female agent who has quite a great role, and fights and shoots just like the men.

I loved the cinematography, the steep mountains, covered in snow and the castle, nested on the top of a hill, gave the movie a Gothic feel.

The fact that I always feel uneasy in cable-cars made watching this movie quite impressive as some of the most gripping scenes take place on the top of a cable-car.

Apparently the movie has been criticized for not being anti-war. I think, that there are for sure movies with a clearer anti-war statement, which is one of the reasons why I think this is more of an action movie with a war theme than a real war movie.

In any case,  I found it very entertaining and I loved Clint Eastwood in this.

I’ve heard that Where Eagles Dare is one of a pair, the other one being The Guns of Navarone. There is a certain likeness, logically, they have both been written by Alistair MacLean. I couldn’t say which one I prefer, I think they both have a lot to offer.

Which one do you prefer?

The Last Samurai (2003) An Epic Tale

Take an American and put him into an exotic decor. Most of the time that goes very wrong. Occasionally it doesn’t and what comes out is an entertaining guilty pleasure like The Last Samurai, a movie midway between The Last of the Mohicans and Memoirs of a Geisha. Although it is not at the same level of Glory, one of my Top 10 war movies and Edward Zwick’s masterpiece, Last of the Samurai is equally beautiful.

Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) is a hardened, disillusioned and alcoholic veteran of the Civil War. Touring as special attraction with some sort of circus, he has clearly seen better days. He is haunted by what he saw in the war, the killings of the Indians, the battles. While in this sorry state, he is approached  by some Americans who want to hire him as military advisor for a newly established Imperial Japanese Army. If it pays good money, he would probably sell his mother, so he doesn’t hesitate long and follows the men to Japan.

The army consists mainly of peasants with no experience whatsoever in warfare. Despite their not being ready, one of the emperor’s advisors wants Algren to lead them to battle against rebellious Samurai who do not want to accept the changing of the times.

The moment when they are surrounded by these warriors in their incredible armour, it’s obvious they will lose the fight. In the chaos and mayhem that follows, Algren who has been severely wounded is taken prisoner by the Samurai and brought to their village high up in the mountains.

The landscapes and images are extremely beautiful, the ways of the Samurai seem mysterious and we can easily understand that Algren is fascinated. The moment he arrives in the village – and not only because the woman who takes care of him is very beautiful – he tries to immerse himself in the culture and the rituals of this ancient tradition.

In the months that he spends with them he learns their ways of living and fighting and becomes the friend of the their leader Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe). When the imperial army attacks, he fights with him until the last.

I enjoyed the final battle and seeing the battle formations, it reminded me a bit of Waterloo.

I was surprised that I liked this movie I had thought it would be tacky but it is really not bad at all. Plus I have a thing for the Samurai armour. It’s one of the most beautiful armour in history. And their weapons are also quite fascinating, they didn’t use firearms.

It’s a very visual movie, with a good story. In other words, excellent entertainment.

Heartbreak Ridge (1986) Heartbreakingly Bad

Shameful and painful. Shameful to admit I watched this crap and painful to have watched it. I wasn’t even sure whether I should review it on account of the shame factor. I mean, seriously, there is a bit of a reputation at stake, right? But then I thought, I might save someone the time or direct those who would like this movie towards it. I’m sure there are people out there who did or would appreciate this. Anyone who is planning on having an affair with their ex-husband/wife might learn a few things.

The beginning of Heartbreak Ridge isn’t all that bad. I can really sympathize with people who have a problem with their superiors, especially when those superiors do not seem to have reached their position through knowledge and capability but purely by chance or through the right connections.

Gunnery Sgt Tom Highway (Clint Eastwood) is a hardened veteran of two wars. He has done more than one tour in Vietnam and is most certainly not the guy to be posted in an office or someone who should be doing some menial task. Since his divorce, and most probably also before, he is a bit too keen on drinking and this, plus a tendency to insubordination, gets him frequently into trouble.

Being a highly decorated soldier and really liked by his friends he is given another chance. Just before his retirement he is sent back to his old unit in Cherry Point, North Carolina. He had been transferred from there, once more, because of insubordination. At present he is appointed trainer of a reconnaissance platoon with a very bad reputation of being true slackers.

Up to this point the movie is ok but then it tumbles down rapidly. Some new characters are introduced which are meant to be funny but are not. The platoon consists of a bunch of cheeky boys reminiscent of some high school comedy. There is a lot of growling and muscle action from the Gunnery Sgt and a lot of cheerless fun from the boys. Plus the ex-wife is introduced and to make matters worse we are served a corny version of the “How to date your ex” romance (it’s so unsexy).

If you think by now, this must be bad, you will be surprised to hear that it got worse. The platoon who, of course, has become one of the most worthy in a short time, is sent to the island of Grenada to liberate some American hostages. Those poor school girls have been captured by Cuban soldiers. Those mean men have a habit of losing their Havanas and that’s how the Gunnery Sgt found out who the enemy is (it’s quite subtle). What was so far a movie about military life + a parody of boot camps turns into a real war movie but of a tacky variety.

I don’t understand why Clint Eastwood accepted this role. I really have no problem with the guy, I even thought his acting was by far the best thing this movie had to offer. Rating? Should I rate it? 1.5/5

Tom Cruise’s War Movies

This post could also have been a quiz. How many war movies or/and war related movies starring Tom Cruise do you know? I have counted 9. That seems quite a lot. Although I’m not exactly a Tom Cruise fan but he is very good in some of the movies below.

Valkyrie (2008) This is a must-see movie based on a true event. Cruise plays von Stauffenberg, the man who attempted to assassinate Hitler. Too bad it didn’t work. It’s suspenseful despite that we know the outcome, interesting and tragic.

Tropic Thunder (2008) Bad taste and hilarious, in this movie nothing is sacred. A parody of war movies (especially Vietnam/Platoon), the film industry and a few other things. Cruise is extremely funny in this. He’s the ruthless greedy producer who is willing to send a film crew to certain death if success is guaranteed. (Here is my review)

Lions for Lambs (2007) Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in a movie that has been called great by many. I have seen it but remember zero. I think because it didn’t have a good story line, just a fairly good idea. Here is the IMdB blurb: “Injuries sustained by two Army ranger behind enemy lines in Afghanistan set off a sequence of events involving a congressman, a journalist and a professor.”

War of the Worlds (US 2005) Yes, this is stretching the genre a little bit and I haven’t seen it. No clue whether it is any good. It’s not my type of movie. Here’s another IMdB blurb: “As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival.”

Last Samurai (2003) I just watched this, so the review is upcoming. Very beautiful movie starring Tom Cruise as hardened Civil War veteran who is hired to teach combat techniques to Japanese soldiers. (See my review)

A Few Good Men (1992) This is one of my favourite guilty pleasures. A gripping court-room drama with a great cast: Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland and Jack Nicholson.

Born on the 4th of July (1989) Based on Ron Kovic’s memoir. Cruise gives an outstanding performance of Kovic who volunteered to go to Vietnam, came home as a cripple and joins the Anti-Vietnam movement.

Top Gun (1986) Action and romance about aspiring fighter pilots in an elite US flying school.  A really corny movie but the favourite guilty pleasure of many.

Taps (1981) Story of some military cadets who want to save their academy at any price.

My favourite Tom Cruise movie regardless of the genre is Magnolia but my favourite Tom Cruise war movie is Valkyrie. I really liked the movie and his performance in it a great deal. And I liked him in A Few Good Men.

Which one is your favourite?

Harry Brown (2009) Michael Caine Starring as WWII Vet

If Gran Torino had been good it would have been Harry Brown. This is one hell of a gritty movie. A pretty unvarnished look at today’s Britain. If you are in a somewhat no-future, modern-life-is-pointless-and-ugly mood, better stay away from Harry Brown as it will certainly not cheer you up. If you like movies like Let the Right One In (The Swedish film!!!), then you might like it although there are no vampires in this movie, only very ugly and depraved humans.

Harry Brown (Michael Cane) is a lonely man. He spends his time visiting his wife at the hospital or playing chess with his only friend Leonard. When his wife dies there is only Leonard left. The two men live in the same depressing housing estate, somewhere on the outskirts of a big British city. Local gangs are roaming the neighbourhood day and night and some of the places and pedestrian walkways are far from safe. Violence and drug trafficking go on, people who pass are molested and harmed. The kids from the gangs are a bunch of real scum, the lowest of the low. No education, no future, only using and abusing.

Harry and Leonard regularly meet in a bar nearby where they play chess. Leonard has been the gangs’ target for a while. They hustle him, threaten him, shove dog shit into his letter box. The old man is terrified and cannot take it any longer. One afternoon he tells his friend that he is now armed. He is carrying an old bayonet and, if necessary, will defend himself.

Not long after this conversation two detectives (Emily Mortimer and Charlie Creed-Miles) come to see Harry Brown to tell him, that his friend has been killed. Beaten up and stabbed to death. Four young blokes are arrested, one more horrible than the other, some in and out of prison and coming from families in which the father, uncle or some other male relative is constantly in prison. The police questioning shows them from their ugliest side. They verbally abuse the female detective, swear and cheer because they know there is no evidence.  Despite their obvious violent tendencies, the police have to let them go.

And that’s when Harry Brown takes a decision. He will avenge his friend. After the first gang members and drug dealers are found dead, the police now shifts from looking for the murderers to trying to catch a vigilante.

Up to now it may seem as if it wasn’t justified to include Harry Brown in this blog but the fact that Harry Brown is an ex-Marine and has served in WWII is important and gets even more important from the moment he decides to take justice into his own hands.

This isn’t a glossed over movie with a tacky ending, this is a tale that might happen, that shows an ugly reality that is far from overdrawn. It also takes a close look at the frailty and loneliness old age can bring.

Harry Brown is one of those old-school soldiers who never spoke about what happened in the war, who possibly tried to avoid thinking of it. The loss of his wife and friend and the brutality of the murder triggers something and liberates him.

Funny enough, this is as well a movie of vengeance as a movie of closure. It’s not pretty, it’s not nice but it’s highly watchable and it shows an absolutely excellent Michael Caine.

Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino (2008) Another Grim Korean Vet or Why I Think Gran Torino is Dishonest

To a certain extent my title does already give away what I thought of Gran Torino, only it is toned down. I was actually thinking more than once while watching “What a load of crap!”. Sorry, people, if there is anyone reading this who liked it, no offence.

Gran Torino tells the story of an old grumpy Korean vet (no, this isn’t a cliché, of course not), Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood)  who has recently become a widower. He lives in a neighbourhood that has been invaded (his point of view) by…? – Ha! I’m aiming at 100% percent politically correct wording here and will therefore translate what Swiss official papers would use as a wording which is “People with a migratory background”. OK, once more with feeling. His neighbourhood is invaded by people with a migratory background or – less politically correct -  “spooks” and “gooks”, as our vet calls them. Especially unsavoury to him is the fact that the house next to him is occupied (his point of view) by gooks.

At the funeral and the reception that follows, it becomes clear that Walt Kowalski doesn’t get along with his family or children. The relationships are extremely tense and full of mutual animosity and mistrust. Walt is one of those tight-lipped men who answers with a grunt rather than a full sentence. He is suspicious and full of hatred for almost every one around him. And he loves his beer.

The family who moved in next door consists of the grandmother, the mother, a daughter and a teenage boy. The boy loves to do gardening and hangs out with his family or can be seen reading a book. This greatly displeases his cousin who belongs to a local street gang.

This gang tries to clutch the boy and wants him to join the gang. They are sexist and macho. Without really wanting to Kowalski helps the boy. The cousin however will not let go easily and the boy and his sister are in real danger. The boy’s behaviour seriously tarnishes his cousin’s street cred. This must be punished.

The neighbourhood they are living in is dangerous, especially for a girl who might get raped any minute. Some time later Kowalski helps the girl against a bunch of “spooks”. The girl and our vet get to know each other and when he calls her “gook”, she corrects him and tells him that she isn’t Vietnamese but of Hmong origin. The Hmong are mountain people, located between China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. During the war in Vietnam they were on the side of the US and were later abused, mistreated and executed by the Vietnamese. That’s why so many fled to the US, as the girl tells Kowalski.

And this is where the movie lost me for good. It drifts into some tacky redemption parable that I found all the more dishonest because of this Hmong detail. Not that I don’t think they deserve a movie, they certainly are a tragic people but to choose to focus on Hmong rather than on other immigrants – sorry, I meant people with a migratory background – is such a dishonest thing to do. It is as if Eastwood could only choose and have Kowalski accept them because they were on the side of the US. Kowalski is and stays a racist all through the movie.

The message is dubious, the movie is tacky and clichéd , the ending is corny…

Skip it!

Here is the link to the Hmong Net for those interested.

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex aka The Baader Meinhof Complex (2008)

The Baader Meinhof Complex is another movie on the border between war and terrorism. It takes a close look at Germany’s Red Army Faction (RAF) or Rote Armee Fraktion, one of the earliest terrorist groups that made terrorism their profession. They were responsible for robbings, killings, kidnappings in the late 60s and early 70s. What the movie doesn’t show is the fact that there were different waves. The Baader Meinhof group was the first wave of the RAF. Their initial aim was never to kill people but once that started and got out of hands, more radical groups followed, like the one led by Brigitte Mohnhaupt (portrayed by Nadja Uhl) also called Deutscher Herbst (German Autumn).

Not everything is as it should be in Germany in the 1970s. The children of the Nazi generation are afraid that nothing has changed in Germany. Many of the old National Socialist party got away and are in prominent positions in the government. A group around the enigmatic figures of Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu), Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) and Gudrun Ensslin (Martina Wokalek) are fighting a violent war against what they perceive as the new face of fascism: American imperialism supported by the German establishment.

At first they bomb empty buildings, but get more and more violent in the process. One of their two main enemies are the Axel Springer Verlag and the American bases in Germany. They try to fight the war in Vietnam and bomb an American base which costs the lives of soldiers.

The ideas behind their doings were far from wrong. They wanted to build a new society where there was no room for fascism and totalitarianism. Despite the violence, the support in the German population was huge and the whole nation followed how they were hunted down and captured.

Once the heads were arrested they were isolated and held under inhumane conditions which they fought. But even inside of prison, they still organized terrorist acts  and their collective suicide must be seen as a last attempt to right the wrong.

The Baader Meinhof group is highly interesting. This was the birth of terrorism. Nothing like this has been seen before. They went to training camps in Jordan and fought together with the Palestinians against Israel that was considered to be an enemy like the US.

These were not mindless people, they were students and intellectuals, Ulrike Meinhof was a well-known journalist.

Although I cannot approve of their methods, there were too many killings and kidnappings, I can’t help thinking that they changed the fate of Germany for the good. The German society after WWII was still highly infected by Nazism. Many Nazis got away and played important roles in Germany. The Baader-Meinhof did denounce and unmask this. Without them, who knows what Germany would look like today?

The cast of this movie is excellent. The hunted are well chose and so are the hunters. The head of the police force is played by Bruno GanzHeino Ferch stars as his assistant.

The heads of the first wave all died. Meinhof, Ensslin, Baader and Raspe committed suicide in prison. It was rumoured that it was murder but nothing could ever be proven.

The second wave, among them Brigitte Mohnhaupt, left prison a while back (2007), after 25 years of incarceration.