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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
Admiral Erich Raeder was Commander In Chief of the Kriegsmarine and was one of the defendants. He's omitted from the movie though in real life he was found guilty of the first three counts and was given a life sentence. See more »
It's compelling, but maybe not the way it was intended.
Hidden inside this purported battle between surviving top Nazi Hermann Goering and American prosecutor Judge Robert Jackson is, I think, the adaptation the writer probably wanted to do - the story of psychologist E.M. Gilbert and his backstage verbal tusslings with men who either refused to acknowledge any guilt (Goering, Streicher) or conversely were overflowing with it (Frank, Speer).
When you see Alec Baldwin appear a second time in the credits, as Executive Producer, you feel that Nuremberg was probably conceived as a vanity project for him. Fortunately it is quite easy to let the early scenes of the Court's setup just wash over you, and of course Jill Hennessey is always easy on the eyes. Much of the first half of the first episode is more or less soap opera. Jackson has to persuade Judge Biddle to go to Nuremberg, then to relinquish the Presidency of the court to the British. The bantering relationship with his secretary (Hennessey) serves as a prelude to their becoming lovers during their time in Germany.
At this point Hermann Goering appears (the great Brian Cox on top form), totally dominating the trial, totally dominating this mini-series, and your attention is grasped and held. Cox almost wipes Baldwin off the screen. Unfortunately it's very hard not to gain a great deal of sympathy for Goering, particularly when he is with his family, or in the heart-to-heart chats with his G.I. prison guard, Tex. We see Goering as he undoubtedly saw himself, but in reality he wasn't like that at all. The Nuremberg trial and the general travails of imprisonment were an excellent opportunity for him to smarten himself up: prior to his arrest he had become a dissolute and overweight drug addict. Unfortunately no sign of this weakness of character was carried over into the script, leaving an impression of Goering as a noble, principled man - irrespective of whether you agreed with his principles.
Also very watchable was Matt Craven in the role of Gilbert the aforementioned psychologist, and Christopher Plummer as British prosecutor David Maxwell-Fyfe (although the real Maxwell-Fyfe was the younger prosecutor, not an elder mentor as depicted here). Particularly gratifying is the scene in which Maxwell-Fyfe tells Jackson that "your documentary approach is legally impeccable - but as drama it's absolutely stultifying" - which might stand as an apt description of Baldwin's part in this series.
A last little curiosity, and not to make any personal remarks about Herbert Knaup, but I did find it strange that they cast Knaup, a slightly odd-looking actor, to play Albert Speer, by fairly common consent the handsomest and most photogenic of all the Nazi leaders, particularly as Speer was portrayed here in a sympathetic light. Other than Knaup, many of the actors were very close in looks to their real-life counterparts, most notably Roc LaFortune as Rudolf Hess, almost a living double.
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