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How Field Marshal Erwin Rommel became implicated in the July 20, 1944 officers' plot against Hitler. A morality tale highlighting the dilemma of the modern soldier forced to choose between obeying orders and following his conscience.
This biopic follows Rommel's career after the Afrika Korps, including his work on the defenses of Fortress Europe as well as his part in the assassination attempt on Hitler, and his subsequent suicide. Written by
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Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt:
I tell you this in confidence, Rommel: I don't think anything we can do would be of the slightest use. The pattern for defeat has already been set. "Hold fast. Don't give up a millimeter of ground. Victory or death." Wars simply can't be won by men whose knowledge of tactics is based on copybook maxims. They may stir schoolchildren, but they don't stop troops. But give me a free hand for a few months and I'd make them pay for it. I'd make them pay such a price in blood they'd wish they'd never ...
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This is a pretty solid attempt to portray a soldier's great dilemma - balancing loyalty to the state and obedience to orders with the higher calling of loyalty to what's right and just. Erwin Rommel was one of the great German generals of World War II (a hero in Germany and respected by the Allies.) In the end, he also became involved with the conspiracy against Hitler. The movie shows us some of that development, beginning with his incredulousness at Hitler's orders that the Afrika Korps stand and fight to the last man in Africa rather than withdrawing to fight another day. According to the movie, it was this "stand and fight to the last man" attitude of Der Fuhrer that finally pushed Rommel over the edge. That makes Rommel consistent with what I know of most of the leaders of the "resistance" (such as it was) to Hitler. The opposition wasn't political; it wasn't based on a rejection of Nazi ideology or distaste for Hitler's racial policies - it tended to be based simply on the belief that Hitler was leading Germany to defeat in the war. That's the overarching sentiment portrayed here. That being the case, Rommel may not have been the sympathetic character this movie makes him out to be - maybe he just had the smarts to realize that Germany was fighting a losing war. There's also no mention of his performance during the German invasion of France in 1940, in which Rommel - as a panzer commander - received some German criticism for both his tactics and his tendency to exaggerate his achievements.
James Mason was very good as Rommel. His portrayal was believable, although I wish there had been more exploration in the story of where Rommel came from rather than simply starting us abruptly in Africa. Made only 6 years after the end of the war, the movie is also somewhat courageous in presenting a German general (even one who was unsympathetic to Hitler) in such a sympathetic light. I didn't find this to be structured particularly well. There was too much narration involved, which seemed put an end to any flow the movie might have been trying to develop. Some scenes (particularly of the Allied landings on D-Day) featured a little too much patriotic American and British and French music as the troops went ashore (frankly, listening to the Marine Fight Song or The Marseillaise in a movie about Rommel seemed a bit silly.)
It's an interesting movie, but doesn't seem to completely capture the man it portrays.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful.
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