Following the defeat of Germany in WWII, the Allies determine that there must be an accounting of German war crimes. Twenty-four Nazis, representative of all sections of military and civilian life are chosen to stand trial for the crimes of conspiracy to commit aggression, commission of aggression, crimes during war and crimes against humanity. The preparations for the trial, the trial itself and its aftermath are shown through the eyes of Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson and through the eyes of Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering, the ranking Nazi defendant.Written by
Jason A. Cormier
According to Brian Cox the producers wanted the miniseries to be the first of an anthology of WWII sagas, and they were interested in him returning to star as Winston Churchill. Though the project was never made, Cox would go on to play Winston Churchill in Churchill (2017) See more »
The leading Nazis sentenced to death at Nuremberg were all executed during the night of 16th October in the prison gymnasium. Yet bright sunlight is clearly seen shining through the upper windows of the building as the condemned men are each brought to the gallows. See more »
Outstanding drama that serves as a chilling reminder
`Nuremburg' is a chilling and disturbing look at the Nuremberg trial of Nazi war criminals after WWII. The story is historically accurate and captures the political and psychological climate of the times. It also serves as a distressing reminder to a young generation that has not experienced war in its lifetime of the horrors of which humanity is capable.
The film examines a number of fascinating angles of the trial. Instead of just focusing on the trial itself (of which there is plenty), it also offers a look at the political rivalry and infighting of the victorious nations, and a number of character studies of the prisoners. The most prominently portrayed of these is Hermann Göring (Brain Cox), Reich Marshall of the Third Reich and a member of Hitler's inner circle. Göring is portrayed as a cunning and charismatic adversary, who almost succeeds at making a sham of the entire trial.
The haunting question that must pervade anyone's mind that ponders the atrocities that occurred in WWII Germany is verbalised in the film by Elsie Douglas (Jill Hennessey). She says, `How could civilised human beings ever do that to other civilised human beings?', to which Justice Jackson (Alec Baldwin) replies, "Maybe civilization is overrated." This film provides some insight into the motivation of the German leaders, examining the warped perspective of the perpetrators who attempt to rationalise the horrors they committed to themselves and to the court. They point to the German sense of duty and obedience that is ingrained into their culture. After all, they were only following orders. There is also the undercurrent of Hitler's ruthlessness in using the SS to eliminate all opposition. In a particularly lucid moment, Göring says that if you look up and down the cellblock all you see is `yes men' because all the `no men' are six feet underground. Göring also points out the hypocrisy of the criticism of German hatred of the Jews by a U.S. society that interred millions of Japanese citizens, and tolerates segregation and hate-crimes against blacks.
Certainly, this is no justification for the systematic annihilation of 10 million of their own citizens, and as the film progresses a number of the prisoners begin to express deep remorse for their actions. Still, it shows that these weren't a group of sociopathic monsters in the conventional sense. They were otherwise normal men who had accomplished the inconceivable by dehumanising their victims to the point where the horrors they committed every day were no more disturbing to them than hunting deer to trim the herd. This is the most frightening thought of all, because it portends the possibility that such unthinkable acts could happen again. As long as we are able to believe that these men were a gaggle of homicidal maniacs, a freak societal aberration, we can reassure ourselves that this couldn't ever recur. However, when it dawns on us that normal people are able to rationalize such behaviour, we realise that under the right circumstances the potential for such inhumanity always exists. Complacency is an inadvertent ally of oppression, and this film should shock even the most casual viewer out of it. In this regard, it is instructive and enlightening.
The direction by Yves Simoneau is excellent and rises well above his mostly TV credits. The mood of the period is realistically rendered with a great deal of period accuracy. The costumes and period props are excellent with an eye for detail. He does an outstanding job creating background reaction shots, especially among the prisoners, that show their sarcastic disdain for their captors and display their smug superiority. He brings great power to numerous scenes using various camera angles. The holocaust footage used is some of the most disconcerting and inclusive I have ever seen. If there is any criticism to be leveled against the crafting of this film, it is that it delved too deeply into minutia, especially the sexual undercurrents between Jackson and Elsie Douglas. However, given the fact that it was produced as a TNT miniseries, the director was forced to fluff it up for the additional runtime.
The acting is also outstanding. Alec Baldwin gives a solid performance as Robert Jackson, a man obsessed with justice. Baldwin has never been known for his passion, but he elevates his game in certain parts of this film. Jill Hennessey is also excellent as Elsie, rendering her as a tough and smart woman who is a guiding force in the entire proceeding. However, by far the best performance is delivered by Brain Cox as Göring. His is a brilliant and complex performance that brings the reprehensible and magnetic Nazi leader to life in a way that is both attractive and loathsome. Colm Feore also gives a spine tingling performance as Rudolf Höss, the Commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, who cavalierly discusses the efficiency techniques of eliminating prisoners, with the cold precision of an industrial engineer.
This terrific drama rises far above its TV roots. I rated it a 9/10. It is important viewing which reminds us that we cannot become complacent about tyranny, and we must be ever vigilant to guard against its recurrence.
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