That's a decent, if, for us ignorant Americans, somewhat difficult to remember title and all, but, you know what, when I hear it, I'm not so much thinking of a foundation that Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof put down, as much as I'm thinking of some kind of a mental state. If you think highly of yourself, like a superiority complex, except with the goal to commit violent acts of left-wing terrorism against fascists in the name of communism, you might be a Red Army Faction member. That's right, I took this film's premise and figured out how to turn it into a Jeff Foxworthy reference, and if you don't find that impressive, then, well, you're probably not here in the South with me. Like I said, we Americans can get kind of ignorant, but hey, I don't reckon the Germans care all that much, because this film has to have its share of obligatory English-language spots, a couple of which are sequences in which the Germans practically shamelessly celebrate American music (Oh yeah, the Who is really 'Merican, I tell you what). Hey, I've heard some '80s German pop songs, and when they're not putting together classical masterpieces, the Germans don't really know what to do, but then again, this is the '60s, so I'd imagine the Germans were putting together plenty of good music, you know, when they weren't having to deal with violently oppressive political and social struggles, or allowing Can to come up with something like "Yoo Doo Right". Man, twenty-and-a-half avant-garde minutes of more-or-less the same monotonous drumbeat and minimalist lyrics is not krautrockin', but this two-and-a-half-hour-long German flick is a bit more krautrock n' roll, if you know what I mean, people who I presume are just back from researching what in the world krautrock, the band Can, and the "song" "Yoo Doo Right" are. Still, this film isn't really all that awesome, being good and all, but not without problems, kind of like someone suffering from a Badder-Meinhof complex.
While some thrills were certainly expected out of this film, I was also fearing some dry spells, of which there are luckily hardly any in this effort, which still has moments in which its pacing gets to be too steady for its own good, giving you the opportunity to see just how bloated this film is at two-and-a-half hours, taking on one too many story layers, and packing on too much excess material, to be all that smooth of a ride. I don't know if the film necessarily gets to be convoluted after a while, but all of this bloating overcomplicates certain areas of this film, while dragging the final product out to a repetitious point that challenges your patience, as well as your investment, though not quite like the conventionalism. Stories of this type have been interpreted time and again, and I wish I could say that this film puts in all that effort to crafting a unique interpretation, but alas, if there is a major trope in films of this type, then this film taps it, if not hits it hard, running more than I expected on a familiar formula, and one that was never to get all that juicy. Don't get me wrong, this film's story is pretty strong, at least enough for you to get the rewarding thriller than this effort ultimately is, but as intriguing as this film is, there are minimalist areas in dramatic weight, and they go more emphasized than they should be by ambition. A lot of heart goes into this project, and on the whole, such inspiration works, but this is a film whose story focus leans a bit more towards the thrills than the dramatic weight, and director Uli Edel just keeps milking all of the intensity over the substance, giving the film something of a distancing cold feel that is certainly not all that severe, but limits momentum and emphasizes other shortcomings. The film's flaws are limited, but those subtle complaints end up going quite the distance in retarding momentum to a degree that holds this pretty promising project back as overlong, formulaic and even a touch distant. Still, while the film isn't as gripping as it perhaps could have been, well, it's still pretty gripping, having moments of looseness to its grasp, but enough potency to catch your investment, as well as your eyes.
A pretty gritty thriller with intense subject matter, this film is hardly a stunner, but cinematographer Rainer Klausmann still really impresses with a taste in heavy coloring and lighting that is distinct and attractive, with a certain harsh handsomeness that is consistently striking, and often does a fine job of capturing the gritty tone of this thriller, much like the action sequences. This type of action thriller is certainly more concerned about what is being conveyed through explosions and gunplay rather than the explosions and gunplay themselves, so, of course, many action set pieces run together, but still keep you glued to the edge of your seat with airtight structuring and an intensely unapologetic portrayal of violence that sometimes gets to be a bit too disturbing to be all that necessary, but is generally brutally effective. This is a harsh film, but there's a certain beauty to this intensity, and whether it's being expressed through a rugged visual style or being expressed through effective action set pieces, the artistic value of this film proves to be complimentary to this subject matter's weight, which is considerable. Like I said, this story is more focused on the intensity of its subject matter, rather then the dramatic weight that was always to be limited yet could really compel if it was celebrated more thoroughly, but, as you can imagine, the origin of the Red Army Faction is a thoroughly intriguing one, with heavy themes - dealing with human, social and political flaws that drove visionaries to defend their questionable beliefs from questionable beliefs through terrorism that really affected social views - that may not be so weighty that the film can fully justify its hefty length and cold overemphasis on events, rather processes, in plotting, but carries potential that is indeed done justice, even on paper. Bernd Eichinger's and Uli Edel's script is a bit bloated, sure, but on the whole, it does a fine job of milking this story's weight for most all its worth, delivering on sharp dialogue to keep slow spells from creeping too far in, as well as on clever characterization that battles through the potentially undercooked areas in exposition to give you a pretty well-rounded feel for the character, further sold by a strong cast of talents, most all of whom deliver on distinguished and compelling performances. This film is driven by problematic characters who could have fallen short as too questionable to be all that compelling, but really, while you're not exactly likely to be sold on the concept of committing acts of terrorism and whatnot, the writing and performances are strong enough for this character study to grip, which isn't to say that much credit for compellingness isn't also due to Edel, as director, because no matter how overambitious Edel may be, his potent atmosphere sustains both entertainment value and intrigue more often than not, soaking up about as much as the effectiveness within the depths of this thriller as the improvable areas. Edel stands to soak up the kick of this subject matter a bit more, but he makes sure that intrigue rarely abates, even when he's the one challenging intrigue with cold spells, and with Edel's inspiration going joined by inspiration within artistry, writing and acting, the final product is left to stand as pretty rewarding.
Overall, steady pacing gives you an opportunity to think about how bloated and somewhat overcomplicated this film is, while formulaic storytelling and a touch too much ambition stress natural shortcomings and threaten the final product, which resists its shortcomings enough through harshly attractive cinematography, thrilling action set pieces and intriguing subject matter - brought to life by inspired writing, acting and direction - for "The Baader Meinhof Complex" to stand as an improvable, but ultimately consistently compelling dramatization of the early days of the Red Army Faction.
3/5 - Good