Review: The Captain
The Captain (German: Der Hauptmann) filmed in black and white, made in 2017 and directed by Robert Schwentke, is a film that you think is going to go one way, and hits you over the heads and goes the other. It tells the true story of German war criminal Willi Herold, who assumed the stolen identity of a German officer and his ‘adventures’ thereafter.
One of the stars of this movie is the black and white cinematography. The soft edges and stark contrasts, the absence of red blood, lighted torches reminiscent of a Frankenstein movie from the 30’s give this such a specific time ‘feel’ it’s palpable. You feel transported to the fields of war torn Germany.
It’s 1945 and during the last weeks of WWII, Willi Herold (Max Hubacher ), a young German soldier deserts his posts and runs away, followed by the military police. Evading capture he happens upon an abandoned car, and inside is a suitcase with an SS officers uniform inside. He puts it on and just as he’s about to hide, is approached by a ‘lost’ soldier called Freytag (Milan Peschel). Herold decides to play the part of a Captain and is amazed when it works.
I have to admit I expected this to be a tale of redemption, of a young soldier who had run away and fearing for his life would put on that uniform and do good deeds for the frightened and starving population, writing wrongs all in the name of the Führer.
On coming across a band of deserters, he enlists their ‘help’…to do what exactly, no one knows. This ragtag bunch of soldiers are like Quantrill’s raiders, deserters who rape and murder and steal. Notably Frederick Lau as Kipinski, who is a stone cold psycho killer and seems to know that Herold isn’t who he says he is.
Things really amp up on their arrival at a prison camp which holds German soldiers who have deserted.
This is a really interesting film on so many levels, it examines good and evil, power, man’s inhumanity, it’s a real boiling pot of essays for a film student, but the thing is, the acting is really superb, the story is unbelievably horrendous and violent, and importantly it’s also very entertaining. Which sounds weird for the subject matter of Nazis and WWII. I normally shy away from ‘upsetting’ stories or ‘American-lite’ stories where the bad guy is sooo bad and always gets it in the end. But this is rather astonishing, underlined by Hubacher’s perfect nazi looks – cold, blonde, short, unsmiling.
Signature Entertainment presents The Captain on Amazon Prime September 4th.
Review by Tina from a screening link kindly supplied by Signature Entertainment.