The Counterfeiters

2007

The Counterfeiters (2007)

TOMATOMETER

Critic Consensus: The Counterfeiters is a gripping account of one prisoner's moral dilemma, superbly portrayed by Karl Markovics.

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Writer/director Stefan Ruzowitzky explores the moral corrosion of Nazi complicity with this tightly wound adaptation of Adolf Burger's fact-based book The Devil's Workshop. Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics) may be a talented artist at heart, but his desire for wealth has driven him to use his creativity for more nefarious means. Arrested by the police inspector Herzog (Devid Striesow) at the onset of World War II, Sorowitsch is sent to the notorious Mauthausen concentration camp. It's not long before Salomon's thinly veiled opportunism earns him a relatively comfortable position as the camp's resident sketch artist, and five years later he is mysteriously swept away to Sachsenhausen. Upon arriving at the camp, Sorowitsch discovers that Herzog, now a commandant, is attempting to destabilize the economies of the Allies while simultaneously funding the Nazi war machine by assembling a special team of counterfeit artists to create millions in fraudulent pounds and dollars. As the operation gets under way, Sorowitsch finds the efforts of the team continually undermined by unyieldingly idealistic collotype specialist Adolf Burger (August Diehl). In the months that follow, the team wrestles with their consciences as Axis forces are gradually overwhelmed by Allied might. The Counterfeiters won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for The Counterfeiters

All Critics (125) | Top Critics (35)

It's details like that-too bizarre not to be true-that give "The Counterfeiters" its bitter wallop. It's an astonishing tale of cunning, compromise and survival.

Feb 6, 2018 | Full Review…
Newsweek
Top Critic

As writer-director Stefan Ruzowitzky shows, powerfully, affectingly, in The Counterfeiters, the privileges experienced by this small team of Jews and criminals came at a price.

Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

This dark, absorbing thriller is not just a moral exercise in the awful choices faced by those determined to survive history's worst genocide. It invites us to imagine ourselves in the shoes of a not-quite-lovable rogue.

Apr 24, 2008 | Rating: 5/5

The Counterfeiters, written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, is a morally challenging twist on the long and honorable tradition of forgery movies.

Apr 13, 2008 | Full Review…

Based on a real-life Nazi operation, the film is a tense drama with performances that elevate the movie to the front rank of films set in concentration camps.

Mar 20, 2008 | Full Review…

It's impossible not to respond to The Counterfeiters and the haunting questions it raises.

Mar 14, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Counterfeiters

This dark film based on a true story works as an absorbing moral exercise about the terrible choices that some were forced to make in order to survive the horrors of the Holocaust, and it deserves even more credit for making us sympathize with a not-very-likable anti-hero.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

The Counterfeiters is a fictionalized do-or-die tale of survival by a group of talented counterfeiters set World War II Nazi concentration camp. Bold, brave, and provocative new perspective on Operation Bernhard and its role in the Holocaust. Credible cast and performances. A deserving 2007 Academy Award Best Foreign Language Film winner.

Jan Marc Macababayao
Jan Marc Macababayao

Super Reviewer

½

It may be hard to some to dare say negative things about a movie with such a delicate storyline, but The Counterfeiters has really nothing extraordinary to it and I now seem to be the only one to say it is a terribly overrated movie. The direction, which gives a TV look to the film (it was a great thing for The Pianist; here, it is only making it look cheap), is unfortunately very unsensitive while strong emotions should be what you'd find in a movie that is supposed to be inspiring. While it failed to inspire anything in me, it did manage to protray the horror of the Holocaust but never came close to other great films of the genre. Its qualities are never enough considerable to overcome its tactless and cold portrayal of a journey that was supposed to feel inspiring.

Emile Tremblay
Emile Tremblay

Super Reviewer

I would hardly be the first to compare Nazi concentration camps to Hell, but this film brought to mind an interesting way to do so: the notion of contrapasso, from Dante's Divine Comedy (the first volume, Inferno, if that wasn't obvious). Quite simply, contrapasso is when the sinner in Hell is punished by having to continually commit his or her sin for eternity... or at least until enough prayers get the spirit out of Hell and into Purgatory and then Paradise. The lead character, Sally, is a master counterfeiter, both a criminal and a Jew, and as such he finds himself arrested. The punishment, in a Dantean sense, fits the only one of the two qualifications that is actually a crime: the counterfeiter is doomed to continue counterfeiting. When Dante and Virgil reached the very depths of Hell and discovered Satan, it was not fiery, but effectively frozen solid, and though incredibly powerful, all Satan could do was flap his wings. This is what circulated the air in the Inferno, and effectively kept the whole system moving. The point? In a Dantean world view, even the greatest evil has a role to play in God's plan. No, I'm not about to defend the Nazis, I hope you didn't stop reading. Like Oskar Schindler, the master counterfeiter Sally is able to keep a staff and thereby save his workers' lives. Much to the chagrin of Burger, another inmate who can't bear the thought of bankrolling the Nazi's war effort, Sally and his crew print forged British Pound and American Dollar notes simply to stay alive. And so, in a larger sense, printing the money - though aiding an evil force - had a benevolent role to play, as it allowed the group to stay alive until the camp was liberated. And Burger, being a deceiver and continually sabotaging the Dollar project just enough to delay them longer, was also a hero despite his seemingly reprehensible actions making him persona non grata by the end. (Bit of a spoiler, I know, but Holocaust movies are so depressing already, it's almost unheard of to kill the main character... if you watch a lot of them you generally know that they'll survive.) Other Holocaust films have moved me more (Fateless) or had a bigger/better production values (Schindler's List), but this might be the one of the best plots among those that that I've seen: the contradiction is exciting, as you spend the whole film unsure if you want them to "crack the Dollar" or not, as neither succeeding nor failing guarantees survival. I also found it interesting that the counterfeiters were first artists, for some would argue that to attempt to make a film about the Holocaust in and of itself is, like counterfeiting money, a perversion of artistic talent. It always blows me away to see a director entertain the notion of what humanity will do when reduced to its basest level of existence, and in this case, it was the flaws of the counterfeiters that made them human, and separated them from the faceless and automatic Nazis. A well written and acted film that certainly deserved its Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, one that you can either just watch as a good, straight-forward Holocaust movie, or if you want, think a ton about it - the film lends itself to both approches, and should be on your list.

Daniel Perry
Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

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