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Reviews & Ratings for
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19 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Very German AND at times really funny

Author: manuel-pestalozzi from Zurich, Switzerland
22 July 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

23 is an admirable piece of work. The cast is good. So is the script. It basically tells the story of Western Germany in the 1980ies. The main character embodies the hysteria which was at that time rampant in the Federal Republic. It was fashionable to say "I'm afraid" (of nuclear warheads, of nuclear power, of the repeatedly predicted imminent ecological holocaust, of American president Ronald Reagan etc. etc.). An anti Western neurosis was widespread. All this (and the 80ies editions of German weekly Der Spiegel) come to mind while watching 23.

The main character, Karl Koch, is a high-strung, intelligent youth without a family (some sort of modern time "Young Werther") who is obsessed with personal computers and a weird science fiction story in which a world wide conspiracy of "Illuminates" is described. The figure 23 is the secret code of the conspirers. Together with a friend Karl Koch decides to somehow "counterbalance" the threat by using their computer skills to deliver information to the Eastern Bloc. (Apparently the story is based on true facts, the young man and his friend did enter computer systems of nuclear power stations, military installations etc. and they did deliver information to an intelligence agency in East Berlin). Their contact asks for more and more specified information and pays them in hard cash. The money is mainly used to finance their cocaine habit. So Karl Koch's life spirals downward, he is guilt ridden and ever more close to acute persecution mania. When the 80ies are over and the Iron Curtain is lifted, it is over with Karl Koch. He pays a heavy price for his obsessions.

Tragic as the overall story is, there are quite a few really funny scenes. A fine sense of humor prevails throughout the story. The two idealistic middle class youths gang up with two lowlifes, petty criminals who tell them they can establish contacts with the Eastern Bloc (which they actually do). The two unequal pairs truly are a motley crowd and there are gross misunderstandings as well as a true feeling of brotherhood during the cocaine parties. The most hilarious incident: Karl Koch and his friend have hardware problems. Their small "Atari" aggregate can't cope any more. So they go to a "garage sale" in a nuclear power station and buy a huge old computer. They have it delivered under a tarpaulin by a small truck to their elegant 19th century apartment house in fashionable downtown Frankfurt. Their lowlife friend, also a computer freak, joins them in the street in front of the apartment house. He looks at the truck and its cargo in gaping disbelief and quickly gets into a flying tantrum. You need heavy current for this! he cries out. Well, we'll get heavy current, then, says Karl Koch, slowly loosing his self assuredness. And you need a whole cooling unit if you don't want to fry it all, shrieks the lowlife. The next scene you see heavy rain coming down in the apartment house‘s backyard. The expensive piece of junk stands there like a ghost, in the mud.

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20 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

I felt 15 years younger

Author: ex libris from Vienna
6 December 1999

I watched this movie because some articles made me curious ... the film is very thrilling and full of sophisticated humor. i felt 15 years younger, it was like leafing through a diary. I was born in 1964 so the time of Karl Koch's youth was the time of my youth, too. I have, however, never been a hacker. I think it was the first scene: Karl Koch takes his key and walks to his car, "accompanied" by "Child In Time". From that beginning I was in the film and I loved it. I also love "mathematic tricks" and "mathematic obsessions", just like Karl Koch. If the Americans would have made this film there would have been a love story and maybe also a happy-end. 23 is a great European film.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

What is so scary about the number 23?

Author: floyd-27
18 September 2000

Conspiracy theorist alert! All conspiracy theorists need to see this movie. I wont mislead you all, it's not a conspiracy movie. It's a German cinematic variation of "The Falcon and the Snowman", based on actual events that took place in West Germany during the mid 80's.

It involves a young and rebellious radical, who happens to have a healthy appetite for conspiracy theories. Him and his good mate then turn to computer hacking as a means of fighting the war against nuclear power through out Europe.

As they get more involved people start offering them money to hack organisations for information (Including the KGB).... This is when things start becoming a bit awry!

Very thought provoking stuff, highly recommended!!!

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

great ..... worth to watch I promise

Author: moritzbonn-1 from Germany
8 January 2006

In Fact, there are quiet many German movies which have brought the evidence to establish themselves as classics. In general these movies are dramas or comedies and very often they provide the viewer with historical informations of a certain time and area. However, what is often missing is suspense. Allhough German television is full of good crime stories and thrillers this Genre is hardly found in German cinema.

At least this is one reason why I like this movie so much. 23 allows to enter the mind of a burnt out, intelligent but unloved son, who tried to break out of his boring life by rebelling against his dominant father and the establishment of the mid 80th. Where as his protest uses to be more like coming out of a group behavior which is based on ideals his intention during the movie changes completely and ends up in a computer spy environment heavily connected with a continuous downward development of his mental and physical condition.

In one sentence: This movie is one of those that shouldn't end because you want to know more about everything,the whole thing, so deep you will place yourself into the plot and you don't want to leave it. 23 changed my life. Afterwards, I had another opinion about reality.

Check it out yourself, I extremely recommend this movies

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7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

It's indeed a great movie

Author: Warlock21 from Frankfurt, Germany
17 December 2004

I think this is a great movie. It's focus is on the *person* Karl Koch, how he became the character he was in the end, and definitely not another "Hacker"-like movie or a story about the so-called "KGB-Hack" and how his group was finally busted. What makes this movie different from e.g. X-Files is that it is realistic; everyone can easily reconstruct how Karl Koch came to believe in the conspiracy-theories based on the "Illuminatus"-books - A believe that was increasingly strengthened by his ever increasing cocaine addiction. This is also a movie about friendship, false friends, and how friendship and trust are sacrificed to money and addiction.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you.

Author: Thomas ( from Berlin, Germany
23 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Or so it says. The 1998 movie "23" centers on paranoia, hacking and government involvement. Even if the references related to the number are interesting, I'm not too fond of the title. They could have come up with something better here. What I was very much fond of though, is August Diehl's performances. He plays young German hacker Karl Koch whose death is as mysterious as his life to this day, a man who starts out as a true revolutionary, but finally becomes just a pawn in the hands of the mighty and powerful. And I was not the only one who was amazed by Diehl's portrayal. He had not acted in movies before, was in his early 20s, not even 23, when this film was made and won right away Best Lead Actor at the German Film Awards that year. This film was the cinematic birth of one of the finest German actors of the last 15 years. Because of his looks, many compare him to the young Christopher Walken and to this day that Diehl slowly approaches 40, you'll have a hard time to find another actor in the German-speaking parts of the world who's that gifted in portraying the abysses of the human soul (you could maybe make a case for Daniel Brühl in "Das weiße Rauschen"). He's starred in many German films since his breakthrough and also, here and there, in Hollywood. His turn in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds was a real highlight and he showed tremendous screen presence that makes you regret he was in it only for so little time.

But Diehl is not the only impressive component: "23" was Hans-Christian Schmid's second film for the big screen and he was only in his early 30s at this point as well. Just like Diehl, Schmid made it to the top of his branch in the last 15 years. The two united for Schmid's film "Distant Lights" a couple years later, but Diehl only had a supporting part there and I truly hope we'll soon get another Schmid/Diehl movie starring Diehl as a meaty lead character. Another actor I love is Burghart Klaußner, but his part here was just too small and insignificant to really make a difference. It's all about Diehl. Story-wise the film is fine, especially in those moments where the fine line between paranoia and actually being followed blurs. Another highlight are the many references to political events this movie includes (like the Palme murder).

It's a decent film. I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite German movies or best films I've seen from 1998, but for those interested in the (by now not so) new wave of German Cinema, it's truly worth a watch. Let me close this review by saying another thing I liked was the famous "Ton Steine Scherben"/Rio Reiser song used for the ending credits. It fit the tone of the film nicely and is just such a classic. Sometimes German films struggle with their choices of music, but this was a perfect pick.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:


Author: film_riot from Austria
27 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hans Christian Schmid's "23" presents a not too far away time, when it was possible, that some amateurs could break into the world's most important computer systems. And on of those hackers was Karl Koch, a young idealist with big interest in theories about a world conspiracy. Why did Karl Koch become as paranoid as he did? That's the question I asked myself after watching "23". Maybe it's for the better that the question doesn't get a clear answer, because there won't be one. It could be the seed of his father, who is unwilling to try to understand him and causes rebellion. Or maybe that Karl focuses strongly on the negative sides of our society, mostly of them he feels unable to change. The movie makes an exciting journey alongside Karl, showing us his good intentions and his naivety. This all becomes possible with the great acting of August Diehl and his co-stars Fabian Busch, Jan Gregor Kremp and Dieter Landuris.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

I gave it a "9"

Author: Seamus-10 from Germany
14 January 1999

"23" is one of the best german movies for a long time. It is based on the story of the life of Karl Koch (August Diehl: excellent) who was one of the best hackers of his time. 23 is the number of the Illuminators, the members of a worldwide secret society in the book "Illuminatus" by Robert Anton Wilson (who has a short guest appearance). On his high point of hacking Koch broke into the computers of US government arms control and delivered the data to the KGB. The film is a trip back to the 80's: The cold war, Olof Palme's assassination, Gadhaffi and Tschernobyl - most of the viewers will remember those things which dominated policy and influenced the all day life. The film shows the development of Karl Koch from his teenage years to his death as a person destroyed by his cocaine abuse and the extreme pressure he experienced in the wheels of eatern/western policy. This is a very good movie with very good actors-don't miss it!

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:


Author: Hendrik Mans ( from Wiesbaden, Germany
24 January 1999

What an awesome year the German movie scene has been having! And "23" was part of it... definitely one of the coolest (yet most serious) German movies in the last couple of years. While it still sacrifices some realism for the sake of suspense, it's probably one of the most realistic "hacker movies" ever made. I grew up with the same computing stuff Karl Koch uses in the movie, so I loved it. Yay!

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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Very good movie - with very misleading ads

Author: Michael Szczuka (
10 June 1999

An intriguing portrait of a young man drifting away from reality. And since that young man was a famous hacker with an unhealthy interest in conspiracies, the movie has got to be about conspiracies, right? Wrong. But that's exactly what the ads would like you to think. Very bad marketing for a very good movie. And beware: it can bring you to tears!! (Just thinking about that PDP in the rain makes me weep ... *sniff*)

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