Judgment at Nuremberg Movie Review

In the grand tradition of courtroom dramas, Judgment at Nuremberg has the distinction of being probably the most "important" of them all -- even if it's not the most blatantly entertaining.

The three-hour film concerns the trial of four Nazi-era German judges accused of killing millions as part of the regime. The trial circumstances are tricky: The four accused didn't pull any triggers, nor were they in the upper echelons of power. They were middlemen, just signing off on the whims of Hitler. How guilty are they of murder? And so it is that American Judge Dan Hawood is flown in to lead a tribunal to determine their fate.

On the allied side, Richard Widmark makes searing arguments for their guilt. For the accused, a young Maximilian Schell (who won a Best Actor Oscar for the role) creates some really compelling arguments in their defense. Most notably, his closing argument notes that if the judges are guilty, the entire world is guilty -- even America, which delayed entry into World War II for years even though it knew what was going on in Dachau and Auschwitz. Tracy, who had previously been seen in the courtroom just a year earlier in Inherit the Wind, plays the conflicted judge perfectly (he was also nominated for his performance). Nuremberg is one of Tracy's last great performances.

Admittedly, three hours of this can be a bit much and, indeed, starts to feel a little clinical at times, but movies about Nazi atrocities (a la Schindler's List) can get pedantic at times (to the point where Judgment is required viewing in every highschool history class). It's worth it in the end, though. Stanley Kramer's heartfelt, earnest storytelling powers through all of it.

Finally available on DVD, Judgment includes a 20-minute interview with writer Abby Mann and Schell (the only major cast member still alive), plus a handful of other extras.


Comments

Judgment at Nuremberg Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: NR, 1961

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