Robert Schwentke’s film The Captain (Der Hauptmann in the original German) presents a lovingly detailed re-creation of an obscure true story from World War II.
In the last weeks of the war a young German soldier named Willi Herold gets cut off from his unit and is hunted down as a deserter. He escapes and randomly finds a Luftwaffe captain’s uniform in an abandoned vehicle. Impersonating the officer, he quickly fulfills his destiny as a sociopathic killer and commits atrocities that are shocking even during wartime.
Herold collects a band of other rogue soldiers and they terrorize and murder their way through parts of Europe as the war winds down. They are ultimately captured, tried, and convicted for their crimes, but Herold’s story is far from over.
“…he quickly fulfills his destiny as a sociopathic killer and commits atrocities that are shocking even during wartime…”
Max Hubacher wears the icy demeanor of Herold with blood chilling ferocity as the story churns relentlessly through his crimes and horrific acts. The thing is, had Herold in fact been an actual captain, and had he been given the authorizations he pretends to have (which were not out of the question during the Third Reich), he would have been no worse than many German officers during the war. As a Luftwaffe Captain, he acquits himself impressively. Hubacher can hold that remorseless stare of barely contained evil satisfaction. It’s not something you could learn in acting class. The film is worth watching just to see him.
The viewer may struggle to connect with the film: there are no characters that can be seen as sympathetic. Most of Herold’s victims are deserters from the army, or faceless civilians he saw as traitors to the fatherland. His peer group are Nazi’s. There’s no one depicted whose fate is particularly moving in any way.
Nonetheless, the film is beautifully shot in black and white. The film-craft is high quality, with the passion and care taken evident. Schwentke brings the brutal winter during wartime to realistic life. If you have historical interest in deep details of the war, or are fascinated by psychopathic war criminals, this might be a film for you.
The Captain will come to theaters July 27th.
The Captain (2018). Written and directed by Robert Schwentke. Starring Max Hubacher, Milan Peschel, Frederick Lau.
7 out of 10