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Not enough action
on December 7, 2003
This movie is misleadingly named. Although Rommel was indeed the commander of Germany's Afrika Corp in World War II, and there earned a reputation as a master tactician, that is not what this movie is about. Two-thirds of this movie's 88 minute length focuses on Rommel's minor role in a conspiracy to kill Hitler. The conspiracy failed, and Rommel eventually paid with his life for his involvement. (In truth, Rommel was lucky. The other conspirators were hanged on piano wire and died a painful death. Because he had been built up into a national hero, Rommel was given the opportunity to take poison, and the public was told he died of war wounds.
I'm afraid most viewers, jaded by modern F/X and action laden efforts like Saving Private Ryan, will be disappointed with this rather inexpensively made effort from 1951. There is very little action other than a commando raid during the first five minutes of the movie. The little remaining action is actual stock footage of the war, skillfully cut into the film. The movie is very talky, focusing on Rommel's relationship with his wife and son, Field Marshal Von Rundstedt, and Adolph Hitler.
I have to admit that when I watched an early scene that showed Rommel in North Africa, wearing a long black leather overcoat consulting with his officers, I said to myself "pure Hollywood! there is no way he would have been wearing that in the hot desert." Then I went to my library and consulted a book on Rommel, lavishly illustrated with photographs. Not only was Rommel wearing the black leather overcoat, he was dressed precisely as depicted in the movie. There is also a remarkable resemblance between Rommel and James Mason, who does an outstanding job portraying Rommel in the movie. The moviemakers got it right, and I was wrong.