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The Baader Meinhof Complex

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Opened: Sept. 25 in Germany

MUNICH -- This year's German contender for the best foreign-language film Oscar may have been intended, like the 2007 Oscar winner "The Lives of Others," to help Germans come to terms with their recent history. But co-producer and screenwriter Bernd Eichinger, who lives in Los Angeles, has clearly penned his script with at least one eye toward raising American consciousness about the roots of international terrorism. It's this immediate relevance as well as top-notch performances that will make "The Baader Meinhof Complex" a must-see for U.S. art house audiences seeking an outside perspective on current events.

By keeping an intense focus on the women of the Red Army Faction, better known in the U.S. as the Baader Meinhof Gang, Eichinger and director Uli Edel achieve a moving character study amid breakneck action that feels surprisingly accurate.

Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck) is a left-wing journalist, middle-class wife and mother of two before the German government's heavy-handed reaction to the 1968 student rebellion and personal circumstances makes her the political mind behind the terrorist activities of Andreas Baader. According to the popular book by Stefan Aust upon which the film is based, Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) himself, is little more than a gang leader before Meinhof's polemics mythologized him for a generation.

The film follows Meinhof's metamorphosis from observing Baader and his group to providing cover for them and offering full-flung membership. After tracing Meinhof's arrest and eventual suicide in a high-security prison, "Baader Meinhof" continues from the point of view of RAF member Brigitte Mohnhaupt (Nadja Uhl). According to the film, Mohnhaupt was the brains behind a series of spectacular murders and a kidnapping aimed at freeing Baader and other jailed RAF members in 1977.

Editor Alexander Berner's work is at its best recreating the fear that enveloped Germany when it seems as if planes were being hijacked on a weekly basis and hostage-taking crises are unfolding right and left. Rainer Klausmann's cinematography keeps the film's multiple layers -- historic news footage, rapidly changing locations, character examination, violent action quickly and easily distinguishable.

But "Baader Meinhof" is still missing the key scenes that explain Meinhof's decision to give up her children and become an underground revolutionary and Baader's transformation from a charismatic jerk into the prophetic leader.

Constantin Film Production
Cast: Martina Gedeck, Moritz Bleibtreu, Nadja Uhl, Johanna Wokalek, Bruno Ganz.
Director: Uli Edel.
Screenwriters: Bernd Eichinger, Stefan Aust.
Producers: Bernd Eichinger, Manuel Malle.
Executive producer: Silvia Tollmann.
Director of photography: Rainer Klausmann.
Production designer: Bernd Lepel.
Music: Peter Hinterthuer, Florian Tessloff.
Costume designer: Birgit Missal.
Editor: Alexander Berner.
Sales: Summit Films International
No rating, 149 minutes.