The Red Baron [Der Rote Baron]

"Weak"

The Red Baron [Der Rote Baron] Review


This is an ambitious attempt to tell the story of World War I's most notorious fighter pilot. But while the events are truly momentous, with thrillingly rendered aerial combat, the film is let down by lacklustre writing and direction.

By 1916, 23-year-old Baron Manfred von Richthofen (Schweighofer) has become the most feared German pilot. With his lurid red plane, he has no interest in catching the Allied forces by surprise: he wants to scare them. But he's also a gentleman, engaging in sport and refusing to be cruel. He's also a strong leader to his fellow pilots, including best pal Voss (Schweiger) and little brother Lothar (Buch). And even Allied pilots like the Canadian Roy Brown (Fiennes) respect him.

This respectful style of engagement is fascinating from today's perspective, when shock and awe has replaced the fact that real people are dying. This film catches this beautifully, reflecting the WWI experience realistically in both the air and the trenches, including the yawning gulf between the aristocratic officers and everyone else. The story also includes Manfred's frank encounters with Kaiser Wilhelm (Frej), which are much more engaging than the half-baked romance he has with a Belgian nurse (well-played by Headey).

Sadly, this romantic storyline takes over the film and feels increasingly far-fetched, especially when the script strains to create a love triangle with Roy after he's shot down by Manfred and vice versa. And then there's the scene when they both crash and spend a day together in no man's land. Although it could have happened, none of this feels even authentic, partly because everyone speaks English but mostly because the dialog has no life in it.

Much of what these characters say to each other is either a non sequitor or a stirring speech. At one point, you think Headey is going to say, in all earnestness, "Did you ever know that you're my hero?" This kind of corny writing simply flattens any emotion, especially when it's directed like a lifeless TV-dramatisation. So it's a good thing that the real story is so intriguing and the dogfights so exciting to watch. The effects work is truly stunning, and makes wading through the drama worthwhile.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Action/Adventure

Production compaines: Niama Film

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Nikolai Muellerschoen

Producer: Dan Maag, Nikolai Muellerschoen, Roland Pellegrino, Thomas Reisser

Starring: Matthias Schweighöfer as Baron Manfred von Richthofen, as Werner Voss, as Käthe, as Captain Roy Brown, Volker Bruch as Lothar von Richthofen, Maxim Mehmet as Leutnant Sternberg, Steffen Schroeder as Leutnant Bodenschatz, Hanno Koffler as Leutnant Lehmann, Tino Mewes as Leutnant Wolff, Ralph Misske as Menzke, Axel Prahl as General von Hoeppner, Gitta Schweighöfer as Kunigunde von Richthofen, Jan Vlasák as Major von Richthofen


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