"The Baader Meinhof Complex" DVD, Blu-ray Review

4/01/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review

"The Baader Meinhof Complex"

Directed by Uli Edel, Written by Edel and Bernd Eichinger, 150 minutes, Rated R

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

Terrorism has been deep within the public consciousness these past 10 years, so it was only a matter of time before films like Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" and Uli Edel's "The Baader Meinhof Complex" started rolling around to explore the world of a terrorist--the root causes, the emotional investments, the sacrifices, and most of all, the inherent flaws and evils of terrorism. Both films also coincidentally take place in Germany and attempt to unravel and examine how every era has its own brand of terrorism. Both were also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in their respective release years.

"Complex" in particular, unlike "Ribbon," is the true story of the German Red Army Faction (or RAF), a terrorist group that desperately sought to bring political change and worldwide awareness to the evils they believes were being done both in nationally and internationally in the late '60s and '70s. Their primary focus was the Vietnam War, as well as the conflicts in Israel that continue to this day.

Better known as the "Baader-Meinhof Group," the RAF was founded by liberal journalist Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck), all-around misfit Andreas Baader (Moritz Bliebtreu), and Andreas' girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin (Johanna Wokalek). Together the trio began a reign of fear in Germany, and the public's general ambivalence toward the political systems of the time and the RAF's glamorous appeal to angsty youths resulted in them becoming a specific target for the government to quash.

I can't say I have a comprehensive knowledge of the RAF or German history in general, but whether Edel and co-writer Bernd Eichinger's script is very accurate or not, some of the best "non-fiction" films are fictionalized, as fiction more often than reality is capable of conveying truth and emotion. In film, at the very least. So that said, the film acts as an overall lesson on terrorism--honestly, had they changed the names of every character and set it in a different country, they could've told the same story. The root causes of terrorism are rarely exclusive to nations, race or political ideals, but an ultimate vision of how a certain group of people expect the world to be, and they choose to create that world through fear. Because, as many organizations have found, fear is one of the most effective means of change.

Along with being a study of terrorism, "Complex" also manages to be a compelling thriller, with the cat and mouse between the RAF and the government and the relationships between the members within the group making for some very entertaining and fascinating drama. There are also frequent and shocking sequences of really intense violence that both thrill and disgust--in a way Edel is showing us how powerful the actions of terrorism can be while at the same time showing us quite simply what it really is. Thoughtless, emotionless, pointless violence.

This is where Edel most succeeds--he does not allow the fact that the RAF were glamorous to certain people in their time make the film glamorize them. They prove themselves to be less an army for political change and a new, perfect world and more a paranoid, reckless mess, often finding enemies where there are none and causing the deaths of numerous innocent people despite their "rules" against harming civilians. What separates civilians from an ordinary policeman who joined to enforce justice and is only fighting them because he has a political (and more importantly, moral) ideology all his own?

And one of the greatest roots of conflict within the film (and within any major political movement, to be truthful) is that neither side is willing to negotiate or even empathize with the other--not because one side is particularly unreasonable, but because they cannot allow themselves to appear weak. Nobody can be truly right in a war. That's what makes it war, whether it's in a battlefield or in the middle of a city.

Despite the intriguing premise and generally excellent direction, though, the film does drag a lot in its last act and it goes on far longer than necessary--many scenes late in the film seem arbitrary or repetitive, and the characterization throughout the film (excepting the main trio) leaves a lot to be desired, especially when Edel is so desperate to show us their mindset. Still, the very strong performances make up for this problem more often than not.

Overall, the film isn't perfect, and it doesn't quite match the brilliance of its fictional companion piece "The White Ribbon," but it does do a great deal in helping us understand a threat that will certainly not disappear anytime soon.

Grade: B

View the red-band movie trailer for "The Baader Meinhof Complex" below.  What are your thoughts?

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