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'Diplomacy': The World War II tale makes you feel the stakes

'Diplomacy' stars Niels Arestrup as the German officer charged with blowing up Paris and André Dussollier as the Swedish consul who engages him in a battle of wits to save the city. 

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'Diplomacy' stars Niels Arestrup (l.) and André Dussollier (r.).

Jérome Prébois/Zeitgeist Films

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Based on the French play by Cyril Gely and directed by Volker Schlöndorff, “Diplomacy” is so soundly engineered and acted that it doesn’t seem stagey at all. Essentially a two-character study, it stars Niels Arestrup as Dietrich von Choltitz, the German officer charged by Hitler with blowing up Paris in the waning days of the war, and André Dussollier as the Swedish consul who engages von Choltitz, encamped in the elegant Hotel Meurice on the Rue de Rivoli, in a battle of wits to save the city. 

These two actors previously played these roles on stage, but their performances don’t have that ossified feeling one often gets in these situations. Since we all know that Paris wasn’t blown to smithereens, the tension here is not in the outcome but in how it was achieved. The meeting between these two men is largely fictional, but the stakes could not have been more real. Grade: A- (Unrated.)

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