The Unknown Soldier (2007)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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Academy Award-nominated director Michael Verhoeven unearths the long-buried truth about Nazi Germany in this documentary exploring the Wehrmacht Exhibition - a controversial display consisting of personal letters, photographs, and film footage that implicate common foot soldiers in some of the most horrific atrocities ever committed against mankind. When most folks think of World War II, names like Hitler, Himmler, and Eichmann offer a comforting means of confining evil to a relative few: But what of the countless soldiers who carried out their diabolical plans - aren't they just as much to blame for the horrors that we read about in our history books? Despite the fact that the sons and grandsons of these soldiers have refuted the damning evidence that vilifies their forefathers, the fact remains that the Nazi leaders couldn't have cemented their terrifying stronghold over Europe without some serious backup, and as Verhoeven and his crew travel to the killing fields of the Eastern Front while speaking with historians, experts, soldiers, and eyewitnesses, the viewer bears witness to an insecure nation's desperate attempts to reconcile its proud history and dark legacy. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for The Unknown Soldier
Once the film gets mired in specifics, it begins to seem like any other Holocaust documentary and loses the sense of relevance and engagement with the now that at first makes it so intriguing.
The film eventually becomes one long therapy session for the German nation as it struggles to understand how its brave and good soldiers could have done such bad, bad things.
As Verhoeven's film makes clear, many thousands of surviving German veterans, along with a disturbing quotient of their children and grandchildren, are much too eager to make excuses.
It is a painful but important subject, to be certain, but the film dilutes its own effectiveness by devolving into a collection of talking heads who often seem to be repeating each other.
Is such footage appropriate to the big-screen environment of the cinema?
Audience Reviews for The Unknown Soldier
At first, "The Unknown Soldier" may seem like just yet another Holocaust documentary. But director Michael Verhoeven finds a fresh angle in confronting Germany's odd relationship with its past, in not only exploring how the Nazis exploited anti-Semitism for genocide, but also focusing on two exhibitions in Munich and Berlin called the "War of Annihilation Exhibition" that examine the role of the average German soldier in the Holocaust which caused a great deal of controversy.(At the same time, there is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum(which you should check out if you get the chance) in Washington, DC, and Minsk is littered with memorials to the dead.) And the results are damning with evidence that includes archival footage and testimony from historians, victims and former soldiers. According to the film, the soldier's role could be passive or aggressive in aiding atrocities such as shooting prisoners of war or Jews(40% of Holocaust victims were shot) and perhaps also as logistical support for the SS. On the other hand, there are mentions made of soldiers and officers who disregarded such orders, sometimes with no punishment. Even with the evidence on hand, many people cannot comprehend how their fathers and grandfathers could be capable of such atrocities.(The documentary is subtitled, "What did you do in the war, dad?") It is no coincidence that none of the death camps were in Germany proper to keep the mass killings out of sight and mind of German citizens. The effects of these actions are felt in Germany down to the current day, allowing for the rise of right wing nationalist parties and anti-Semitism, leading to the bombing of a proposed Jewish center in Munich.
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