Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Counterfeiters

Okay, so The Counterfeiters is yet another limited release, foreign film, based on a true story. All the fixins for a movie nerd like me. Subtitles, small independent theater, actors no one at the Regal Cinemas has ever heard of. Yes, I have an obsession with the Ambler Theater. Good movies, friendly staff, reasonable prices, why wouldn't I have this crush on the place?
So, the movie. . .
The protagonist, Sally (short for Salomon,) is a career criminal in nazi Germany. He mainly prints his own money, but touches on other illicit activities. After his arrest, for both the crimes and the being Jewish, he is sent to a concentration camp where he is labeled as both Jewish and criminal so that his fellow prisoners know what he is.
When the nazis find out exactly what Sally is capable of, they put him to work for them. With Sally at the helm of what has been called the largest counterfeiting operation in history, the nazis print enough foreign currencies to fund their war effort.
Sally just goes along to keep himself alive in desperate times, as do the other members of his crew. Once one of his fellow prisoners/coworkers in the printing plant voices his opposition to the effort, the movie takes a turn from historical study to fascinating character study of just how much a person is capable of in order to keep himself safe and alive. Sally has to keep up appearances, but help hide what his friend is doing to intentionally sabotage the operation, not only from the nazis, but from fellow inmates that fear for their own safety.
Balancing his own life, and those of the men he has bonded with in these horrid conditions, with the idea of helping the greater good becomes very complicated. If they openly defy the operation, they will all be killed and the nazis will find other prisoners to do the work.
The movie deftly weaves through these complicated issues of self-exploration while building a detailed picture of the historical facts behind the personal struggles.
The only failing of the movie would be in the lack of in-depth study of the supporting characters. So much attention is paid to Sally, that many of the fascinating minor players fall to the wayside.
Overall, the story is gripping, the drama is touching, the characters are captivating. With a run time of one hour, thirty-nine minutes, there is plenty of room for more probing of those minor characters.
I'll have to give it a B for the effort.
--John Berry, Online Editor--

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