The Red Baron

Directed by Nikolai Müllerschön
Written by Nikolai Müllerschön
Starring: Matthias Schweighöfer, Lena Headey, Joseph Fiennes, Volker Bruch, Til Schweiger, Tino Mewes, Maxim Mehmet, Branislav Holicek
Release Year: 2008
IMDB rating: 5.9

The story of the legendary Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron (Der Rote Baron), the top ace pilot from the World War I. The ace scored 80 victories (although some debates remains on the real number of victories) before he was killed in action in April 21st 1918. Also a subject of dispute, the person who was credited with the kill was Captin Roy Brown, an RAF officer depicted in the movie by Joseph Fiennes.

I was rather disappointed with the movie. First and foremost, the story was tilted towards the romance between Richthofen and Nurse Kate Otersdorf (Lena Headey) and towards the somewhat frustrated Richthofen with the continuing losses of his friends in combat missions. This, in turn, spoiled the whole great potential for exploiting the heroism that were there, either from the Allied side, or even the German side. As I’ve known, Richthofen’s era was the age of heroes, as if every ace had his own legendary feats. In the movie, only a few got covered, like Werner Voss (48 kills), Lothar von Richthofen (40 kills), Ernst Udet (62 kills), and Kurt Wolff (33 kills). If only the movie was willing to view the era from both sides, it would have been a lot better. Nevertheless, it’s fair enough to say that given the title, it would naturally focus on Richthofen.

Second thing that I deeply disappointed with this movie was the fact that the crucial combats in Richthofen’s career were omitted. His rise to fame were not told. It was all of a sudden that he was already a flying ace. Then, the day he got wounded in the head was also depicted only by showing his plane landing after he got shot. Even more unbelievable was his last combat which sparked debate even today, the encounter with Captain Roy Brown from the RAF that led to Richthofen’s death, was omitted. Suddenly, the movie presented me with Roy taking Kate visiting Richthofen’s grave. This also the same with the death of Werner Voss, a very close friend to Richthofen, who just, well told as already dead. No depiction of how he died whatsoever.

The Real Manfred von Richthofen

Third thing that I considered negative was that the movie was in English instead of German. It would be a lot better to see the actors speaking in German rather than in English with German accent. It was like that horror watching the Valkyrie trailer with Tom Cruise doing German accent. This led to a big hit in the cast’s acting, because with most of them German, it would be a lot more realistic and convincing if the dialogues were written in German.

All was not lost, however, as the crew managed to present the planes in great details, including the paintings and the colors of both the Flying Circus (Richthofen’s Jagdgeschwader 1 unit) and also those of the Allied side. Unfortunately, the aerial combats lacked suspense. When for example, Friedrich Sternberg (a fictitious Jewis pilot made up to be a representative to the many Jewis pilots who served the German empire during WWI), was shot down and his plane crashed. I could feel nothing. Not loss, just maybe thinking: “Oh well”.

The Real Flying Circus

Truly, from visuals I was barely impressed, from the drama set by the plot, I felt empty. As for the acting, given the poor choice of the language, this had led to ruin the cast’s potential to act convincingly. Facial expression was just not enough, I believe.

Final score: 4.0. I hope one day we would have this movie remade.

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