In a world where the Nazis won the Second World War, Germany has corralled all European countries into a single state called Germania, and continues fighting against the Soviet Union. It is now 1964 and Germany’s war crimes against the Jews have so far been kept a secret. Germany believes that an alliance with the United States would finally beat the Soviet war machine. As his 75th birthday approaches, Hitler wants to talk peace with President Joseph Kennedy. An SS homicide detective and an American journalist stumble into a plot to destroy all evidence of the genocide; evidence that could destroy the peace process with America and evidence that Nazi and SS leaders will stop at nothing to keep hidden.
User Reviews: I know, I know – it’s pointless to complain about how true a film is to the plot of the novel it’s based on, but in this case, "based on" is a phrase used more loosely than usual. The finely crafted Robert Harris novel gradually reveals in a literary striptease the elements of this alternate universe; the film gives up most of the interesting twists in a voice-over narrative/montage in the first three minutes! Took all the fun out of it.
The original plot is barely recognizable in the film and the reworked ending completely implausible compared to the novel’s. (Perhaps the rewrite was a budgetary concern – the novel’s climax involves a long cross-country car chase.) Most of the original characters appear, but some are severely truncated and two-dimensional, and one new one is added, seemingly only to speed up the plot! Lastly, the love interest between Hauer’s and Richardson’s characters has been omitted entirely, which was a vital driving force in the novel’s plot.
The upside of the film, if it has one, has already been mentioned in the other review posted here: the juxtaposition of 1960’s Europe (the film was shot in Prague, which afforded plenty of great locations) with a Nazi regime (a large poster and statue of an aging Hitler). Truly disorienting and disturbing.
I’ve not read Harris’ comments on the film anywhere, but I’m not sure he’s entirely happy with the treatment his great novel got. I know I wasn’t. A semi-fun rental if you haven’t anything else to watch, but take my advice and read the novel instead.