‘Baader Meinhof Complex’ a gripping, frenetic thriller

One of the most stunning aspects of The Baader Meinhof Complex is that it never once lags despite running almost two and a half hours. Germany’s submission to the 2008 Academy Awards and a best foreign language film nominee, the film is absolutely thrilling from start to finish.

After all, had the most comprehensive feature about the Red Army Faction been anything but riveting, it would have been a failed exercise. Making the 1970s far-left terrorist group boring would have been a crime against history.

Luckily for history buffs and film fans alike, Baader Meinhof has no need to embellish its plot’s events. The group, which was active between 1970 and 1998, is responsible for 34 deaths and often chose civilian targets, including department stores and public spaces.

Baader Meinhof looks and sounds as if it is from the 1970s. Cinematography, effects, sound, and action sequences are all period-appropriate, and the script – which covers the group’s inception to the demise of its first generation of leaders – manages to pack an immense amount of information into a enthralling thriller.

The female leads own the film. Martina Gedeck is superb as Ulrike Meinhof, a sympathetic journalist who joins the subjects of her columns in committing terrorist acts; likewise, Johanna Wekalek steals every scene she’s in as group leader Gudrun Ensslin. Wekalek’s chemistry with Moritz Bleibtreu as co-leader Andreas Baader is completely electric.

The sole major fault with the film is that once the group’s original leaders are imprisoned, new characters are introduced without any background; it’s possible to watch the entire movie without knowing who many people are.

The Baader Meinhof Complex is a breathtaking, heart-stopping look at a time in which the youth of a country refused to let the history repeat itself. It is interesting to contrast their activism, whether one approves of their tactics or not, with the apathy of today.

The Baader Meinhof Complex plays Friday through Sunday at the Cosford Cinema.

RATING: 4/4 stars

Starring: Martina Gedeck, Johanna Wekalek, Moritz Bleibtreu

Directed By: Uli Edel

MPAA Rating: R