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"Copenhagen" is an intriguing bit of historical speculation inspired by a true story about a visit in March 1941 paid by Werner Heisenberg(Daniel Craig) to his fellow theoretical physicist Niels Bohr(Stephen Rea) and his wife Margrethe(Francesca Annis) in Nazi-occupied Denmark. Once their mentor student relationship was close, but now they are on opposite sides. Heisenberg had a chance to flee his native Germany when Hitler came to power while Bohr is half-Jewish and is deeply worried, though not currently threatened. So, while the two could previously talk freely about physics, now they have to watch what they say, especially as it pertains to the possibility of an atomic weapon. That makes this a possibly crucial moment in time when it could have gone in many different directions and the film cleverly explores this from their present and an afterlife they could scarcely have imagined, in order to assess their respective culpabilities. Not to dampen the fun, but from what I read at an exhibit at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, there were quite a few reasons why the Nazis never developed an atomic weapon, the least of which being that they thought it would be unnecessary since they would win the war so quickly. This is a sentiment that is reflected in Heisenberg's optimism on his arrival in Copenhagen.
Getting back to New Mexico for a second, it is weird that in "Breaking Bad" that Walter White(Bryan Cranston) takes the nom du crime of Heisenberg when he is a chemist, not a physicist. On the other hand, I know the names of many more physicists than chemists, so maybe they are just sexier, although not as much as biologists...
Haunting in more ways than one "Copenhagen" is framed by the meeting of the ghosts of three friends who try to come to grips with why sixty years earlier their friendship was destroyed by a visit. This film is fascinating in structure and brilliantly realized as drama.
Francesca Annis is simply wonderful as the wife of Danish Physicist Niels Bohr. She is as brittle and supportive of her husband as she is distrustful and yet tender to their old friend, German physicist Werner Heisenberg. Stephen Rea towers in his portrayal of Bohr and commands the screen in velvet gloved over steel performance. His role is one of such extreme depth and subtlety that I was truly impressed with what he delivered. As Heisenberg, Daniel Craig is a towering presence. Not that the personality of the man he plays is towering, but in his grasp of the complexities and conundrums is. What he does with the slight turn of the head, the shifting of the eyes and the turn of the mouth or the pout of his lips is a lesion in the art of screen acting. It is all about thinking and Craig lets us see what he is thinking. He has the ability to inhabit the moment and let the deepest and sometimes the guarded emotions play across his face.
So here you have three great actors in a challenging work that is worthy of your time you might give to it. This film raises an important question, that of moral responsibility to humanity and when it is split like an atom by the three characters it multiplies the question into even deeper ones of loyalty, friendship, and love. A wonderful experience is waiting your arrival in "Copenhagen".
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