The Baader Meinhof Complex (2009)

Director: Uli Edel
Plot: A look at Germany's terrorist group, The Red Army Faction (RAF), which organized bombings, robberies, kidnappings and assassinations in the late 1960s and '70s.

Awards: Nom. for 1 Oscar - best f
oreign language feature.
Runtime: 150min

Rating: M18 for violence and some mature content.


’s official entry to the 2009 Oscars was rewarded with a place to compete for the Best Foreign Language Feature category which eventually went to Yojiro Takita’s Departures. Director Uli Edel’s cinematic recreation of the events that led to the establishment of the RAF in the late 60s and the inevitable capture of its key members is easily one of the best films of the year. Despite clocking at a lengthy 150 minutes, the film grips viewers from start to end, and is possibly the most immersive film experience from German cinema in recent years.

The Baader Meinhof Complex opens with a scene in a tranquil nudist beach and then a gathering of young adults at a party-like setting, introducing the characters that would b
ecome integral to a small, lethal group of revolutionaries. Baader is the leader of the cause which champions the right for citizens of the world to live freely without the presence of aggressor nations. One of the group’s priorities is to put pressure on the German government to influence or intervene with U.S’ unjustified military involvement in Vietnam. Meinhof is a lady journalist documenting the rise of these revolutionaries. She makes the life-changing decision to join them and be their voice.

Edel uses an intoxicating blend of real images and re-acted scenes that are brilliantly edite
d to give the film a fast-paced drive. The gritty realism is matched with unflinching violence as the Baader-Meinhof group escalates its brutality in response to an equally brutal German government crackdown on what the latter perceive are acts of terrorism. At its infancy, the group is against the killing of innocent civilians. But after the capture of the core members who are put in solitary confinement for years and in a maximum security prison thereafter, the second generation of RAF fighters employs terrorist tactics to force their government to release the captives who are reportedly ill-treated and left to die in vain.

The performances in t
he film are delivered with aplomb. These characters are intelligent, sensitive beings caught in a situation that slowly spirals out of control. They begin with the good will to support human rights and end up as victims of their cause. Who is to blame? Now that is tricky. The poster for the film questions: Are they revolutionaries or terrorists? Edel does not provide a clear-cut answer. This is why The Baader Meinhof Complex works so well as a film. The director paints these people in as neutral light as possible and he coerces us to make a choice. The Baader Meinhof Complex is a masterful film of debatable politics and emotional human drama, one that a young Oliver Stone would have been proud to make.

GRADE: A (9/10 or 4.5 stars)

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