The Baader Meinhof Complex movie poster
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The Baader Meinhof Complex movie poster

The Baader Meinhof Complex Movie Review

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Every year, the Oscars praise five foreign language films that few people in the United States have seen. More often than not, these films are excellent, and yet they rarely get prominent theatrical releases in America. And when they do, they often are released months after the Academy Awards are handed out in a time where they are guaranteed to receive amazingly little attention. Such is the case with The Baader Meinhof Complex (Der Baader Meinhof Komplex), an excellent, action-packed drama certainly deserving of worldwide recognition.

The Baader Meinhof Complex is about the rise and fall of the 1960's and 1970's German terrorist group The Red Army Faction (RAF), which conducted bombings, shooting and kidnappings throughout Europe in retaliation for what they saw as fascist policies by Western nations. The group was led by a few select individuals, most notably recognized journalist Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) and Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu), who attempted to spread their views throughout the continent only to watch as later generations of the RAF took upon more extreme measures to get their point across.

From director Uli Edel and the writer of Downfall, Bernd Eichinger, based on the book by Stefan Aust, The Baader Meinhof Complex is an incredibly detailed, well-acted and violent depiction of the RAF's developments and attacks. Ranging in at two-and-a-half hours, the movie is both a deep character study and a thrilling collection of terrorist attacks. The movie looks great, taking elements from The Bourne Supremacy (including the score, which sounds eerily similar and at times identical) and applying them to a true story.

Having not been born until long after the RAF's reign of terror had ended, I knew little about their actions or what motivated them. Given the renewed focus on terrorism over the last ten years, it's intriguing to watch a story that shows what drives young, seemingly innocent people to commit murder in the face of tyranny. Eichinger's screenplay is incredibly well written and the actors take things to the next level, delivering superb performances all around.

The movie is surprisingly violent, as Edel does not hold back when depicting the various attacks the RAF committed over the course of several years. The film isn't particularly bloody, but Edel's directorial style is blunt and gritty, establishing a sense of realism seen in few films.

The movie does begin to feel long in the third act, as the film shifts to focus on the trial of the remaining RAF members and their time in prison. At the same time, new characters are introduced to continue the violence, but they're given little background or setup. There are quite a few scattered throughout the film that appear out of nowhere only to be killed a short time later, though some of their deaths or captures have a bearing on the emotional track of the film. Furthermore, even the main characters seem somewhat underdeveloped; while we see how their characters are defined by their struggles, there isn't enough exposition early on to show how they came to have such hatred in the first place. It's clear that Edel wanted to jump into the action quickly - which he does - but he loses our point of reference in the process.

Despite its flaws, The Baader Meinhof Complex is a consistently captivating drama that will appeal to both foreign film and action buffs. The movie is one of the best films of the year.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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