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Review: Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003)

Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003) 

Directed by: Christian Duguay

Premise: The story of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power from his childhood, through his failed attempt to be an artist and his time as a soldier in World War I, culminating in his takeover of the National Workers Party and consolidation of power.

What Works: Hitler: the Rise of Evil is a very ambitious production and more often than not it accomplishes its goals, attempting to explore Hitler’s background and provide some insight into the man’s motivations and methods. The film has some great production values going for it, especially for a made-for-TV production, such as Hitler’s attempted coup in Munich. The Rise of Evil has some very good performances by Liev Schreiber and Julianna Margulies as Hitler supporters Ernst and Helene Hanfstaengl, Peter Stormare as SA leader Ernst Röhm, Matthew Modine as anti-Nazi journalist Fritz Gerlich, Peter O’Toole as President Hindenburg, and Robert Carlyle as the adult Adolf Hitler. Carlyle gives one of the great performances of the Fuhrer ever committed to film, on par with Bruno Ganz in Downfall, and he portrays the man as a flawed but charismatic sociopath and an adept politician. The film’s exploration of the man’s past does not excuse his later crimes against humanity and the film does a nice job with the relationship between Hitler and the German people, showing how one affected the other. As a piece of historical cinema, the picture does a great job summarizing half a lifetime of material into a single film and presents historical material in ways that are relevant to our contemporary period.

What Doesn’t: The ending of the film is a bit flimsy, concluding in a coda that feels out of place and rather forced. Also, the one glaring historical element that is left wanting is the film’s portrayal of Hitler’s relationship to Joseph Goebbels and Goebbels importance to the rise of Nazi popularity in Germany, both of which are under emphasized.

DVD extras: Trailer, documentaries. 

Bottom Line: Hitler: The Rise of Evil is a terrific historical film, and it will appeal to history buffs as well as mainstream viewers. The film has its flaws, but it does so much right that it is a worthy addition to the pantheon of World War II films like Patton and the television series Band of Brothers

Episode: #173 (January 6, 2008)