Classic DVD Review: DOWNFALL (Sep 2004 Germany, Feb 2005 U.S.)

When it was released in 2004 and 2005, DOWNFALL really impressed the critics as a stunning tale of the last 10 days of Adolf Hitler. It was also the finest German film ever produced to deal with the tragedy that Hitler brought to both the German people and the world. The film is subtitled, however it’s not difficult to see what a fine actor Bruno Ganz is in portraying Hitler who seems to lose all sense of reality as Russian Red Army closes in on Berlin.

The pathetic state of Germany in the final days becomes quite clear as children are manning a flak gun intended to shoot down aircraft and using this weapon in hopes of stopping the advancing Russian tanks and troops. Hitler honors a young boy who supposedly stopped two Russian tanks in the film which looks so pathetic compared to the huge numbers of men, armor and aircraft he commanded early on in the war. Awarding some child some award outside his bunker seems like a sorry last act for the once powerful leader.

Those close to Hitler cannot seem to convince him that only tiny remnants of the once powerful German Wehrmacht remain. There simply aren’t the forces still left to wage an offensive to win the war, let alone protect the city of Berlin in a defensive way. Unsuccessfully, they attempt to convince Hitler to leave Berlin which is certain to fall to the angry Russian forces. Of course the lives of Hitler and some other top German leaders end either in suicide or surrender to Russian forces in the end as the war ends for Germany as Berlin falls. But, DOWNFALL tells such a great tale of the desperate few last days as the inevitable curtain will soon fall on Berlin. What a great foreign film.

Roger Ebert and other critics rate DOWNFALL as a four star excellent movie, which it is. It’s a brilliantly written and acted film and one of the best war films ever produced. The film was also an Academy Award nominee for best foreign film in 2005.

DOWNFALL also was a real breakthrough for the way in which it dealt with the difficult subject of Adolf Hitler for a German produced film. WWII was a horrible piece of the history of Germany. A permanent stain and embarrassment to the German people.

DOWNFALL managed to add some more closure to this difficult to heal wound that WWII did to the German psyche. Hitler is portrayed as pathetic and crazed, and the wholly deluded leader that he always was. But, his madness becomes more and more apparent as the final days events unfold. Much like the Devil himself, who promises so much, but only returns destruction, Hitler leaves history as one of the worst men who ever lived who promised Germany greatness, but returned terrible destruction and defeat as the city of Berlin is ripped into half with one sector controlled by the West, the other, the East.

The Bottom Line: What a great film DOWNFALL is. It’s pure award winning quality from start to finish and one of the greatest war films ever produced. ++++(Four stars, excellent. A pure masterwork of great filmmaking. Add this to your well stocked home DVD library).

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