This stark thriller dissects the motivations of urban terrorists.
Courtesy of Constantin Film Verleih GmbH
Most current movies about terrorists are ripped from today's headlines, but "The Baader Meinhof Complex" is ripped from yesterday's – which turns out to be not so far removed from now.
By any measure – political smarts, thrills, period re-creations – this is one of the best recent films of its kind, and a throwback, in some ways, to such incendiary political films as "Z" and "State of Siege" (both directed by Costa-Gavras). As in those movies, the present-tense immediacy of "The Baader Meinhof Complex" is stunningly revelatory.
Directed by Uli Edel and written by Bernd Eichinger (based on a nonfiction book by Stefan Aust), the film is a panoramic dissection of the notorious West German terrorist group that called itself the Red Army Faction and, in the 1970s, bombed a newspaper office, a police station, and several United States Army encampments. They killed some 30 people and were fiercely defended by the far left from which, until 1998, new branches of the faction evolved as terrorists were killed or died in prison.
The action is framed by the Vietnam War and the political assassinations in America, but the faction's agitations run the gamut. They're equal-opportunity terrorists. At one point, they decamp to Jordan, where they train haphazardly with their Palestinian counterparts. When the shah of Iran and his wife visit West Berlin, demonstrators rallied by the gang are clubbed by the police.