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Reviews

13 Minutes & Terminator Genisys

Jeremy Clarke

13 Minutes Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel Cert15, 114 mins

Terminator Genisys Directed by Alan Taylor Cert 12a, 126 mins

13 Minutes is an historical drama by Hirschbiegel (Downfall) based on 1939's real life, one man assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler and the Nazi authorities' subsequent attempt to come to terms with the perpetrator. The bombing comes early on in the film, and is shown in one cityscape shot with the sound of the far off blast followed by smoke rising over the targeted building in the distance. This is in marked contrast to the ongoing, close up spectacular mayhem of Terminator Genisys, where the point is to foreground such action, choreographed with actors and state of the art computer effects, for the audience's entertainment. It's the fifth instalment in the lucrative Terminator franchise. Both films, the one factional, the other fictional, are concerned with the rise to power of a despotic force within specific time frames (1932-1939; 1984-2017) and its circumstances and causes. The fictional Skynet, the artificial intelligence network which decides to wipe out its human creators in the Terminator franchise, is now as well established in the Western cultural memory as the historical dictator Hitler. The Terminator Genisys script plays on our knowledge of events in creator James Cameron's first two Terminator films (ignoring the two lesser, widely dismissed as inferior third and fourth films) to time travel back and forth between different dates. While, 13 Minutes' narrative intersperses flashback of its protagonist's past with his post-bombing incarceration, torture and coercion by the authorities. 1932's Georg Elser (Christian Friedel) might drink with Communist Party activists, but doesn't join their fight against the Nazis nor suffer their consequent intimidation and imprisonment by the ascendant regime. But Georg dislikes the regime's actions and ultimately employs his considerable expertise as a watchmaker to design, build and deploy a bomb to blow up a building inside which the F├╝hrer is due to address a rally. (Georg fails because Hitler unexpectedly leaves the premises some 13 minutes ahead of detonation). Terminator Genisys is equally about assassinating figureheads: the machines want to make resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) disappear by killing his mother-tobe Sarah (Emilia Clarke); John sends his trusted sergeant Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect her, failing to inform the latter that he is to become Sarah's partner and John's father. Once they find out, issues ensue around free will. Incidentally, Genisys is a platform for connecting all human electronic devices, which in the new Terminator Genisys timeline is the instrument by which Skynet irrevocably establishes itself in history, unless it can be stopped before Genisys' predetermined launch date. 13 Minutes boasts some extraordinary performances by its German cast as it recreates history, examines why one man did what he did and explores the authorities' bafflement as they grapple with the idea that one man, acting alone - not a wider group of people - was responsible. The best performances in Terminator Genisys are actors playing robots: Arnold Schwarzenegger as an ageing version of the eponymous killer robot, Byung-hun Lee as the superior T-1000 from Terminator 2. Impressive as far as it goes, Taylor's workmanlike Terminator Genisys lacks Cameron's visual and technical flair. By way of contrast, 13 Minutes sees Hirschbiegel effectively deploy an arsenal of cinematic resources to retell an historical story. Both movies aspire to greatness: only one of them gets there