Reported to be the most expensive production in German film history, 'The Baader Meinhof Complex' brings 'Christiane F' and 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' director Uli Edel and 'Downfall' writer Bernd Eichinger together to chronicle the terror spree of Red Army Faction members in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s.
Radicals Andreas Baader (Bleibtreu) and Gudrun Ensslin (Wokalek) are among the scores of young Germans outraged by the war in Vietnam, capitalism and the government's support of the US. But the duo and others go further than protest and firebomb a department store.
Baader and Ensslin's actions bring them to the attention of Ulrike Meinhof (Gedeck), a well-known journalist who helps Baader escape from prison. Together, they form the Red Army Faction, aiming to overthrow the government and create a new society. Bank robberies, bombings and assassinations are all part of their campaign.
Hunting them is Horst Herold (Ganz), the new boss of Germany's federal investigators, who seeks to gain a greater understanding of the leaders' psychology and uses the latest computer technology in his bid to track them down.
Two-and-a-half hours long but deserving to be five, this is a riveting study of the Red Army Faction's history and how a young democracy responded to the challenges it faced.
Based on journalist Stefan Aust's 1985 book of the same name, Edel and Eichinger brilliantly recapture the era - their attention to detail even going so far as to use the same amount of bullets fired by the group during attacks.
Faced with a myriad of events, all of which could have been films in their own right - the Red Army Faction's training in Palestine, the trial of Baader, Ensslin and Meinhof in Stammheim Prison, the kidnapping and murder of businessman Hanns Martin Schleyer - Edel and Eichinger manage to give their film the feel of a documentary with the energy of a thriller; as aware of those who don't know the story as they are of those who do.
It's a film that makes you more fascinated with this period of German history by the minute and forces you to think about the relevance of what happened then to what is happening now.
Some will contend that the characters are poorly developed and that by including so much and so many, Edel and Eichinger have made themselves slaves to a very fast pace. However, as in the case of 'The Lives of Others' and 'Downfall' before it, this film succeeds on the ultimate level: it makes you want to watch it again.