Airing on television, Thursday, April 19th – Following WWII, the world turned its attention to the war-ravaged city of Nuremberg, Germany, where the Allied countries undertook an extraordinary event: the trial of 21 members of the Nazi high command – including the notorious Hermann Goering – for the horrific war crimes committed by the Third Reich.
Chief Justice Robert Jackson (Alec Baldwin), the lead prosecutor, shouldered the burden of representing the entire civilized world in its case against the war criminals. “Nuremberg” details the behind-the-scenes battles, the tense camaraderie among the Nazi accused, the terrible evidence being presented and the breathtaking tension of the actual trial, which is considered one of the most important international media events of all time.
Much of the courtroom dialogue is taken directly from actual transcripts, including Robert Jackson’s opening statement. The courtroom itself is a replica of the one used 55 years ago in Nuremberg. The film also incorporates footage of atrocities at death camps such as Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen that was shown at the actual trial.
The predecessor to this film, “Judgment At Nuremberg” is one of the best movies ever made and contains some of the finest ensemble acting you will ever see. Director Stanley Kramer brought out virtuoso performances not only from Spencer Tracy and Maximilian Schell, but from Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland as well. So, I looked upon this new version of the history-changing trial with a bit of film-buff snobbery. However, I was pleasantly surprised. “Nuremberg” contains the highest production values I’ve seen in a TV-movie since “Lonesome Dove.” The staging, lighting, cinematography, and set design are extraordinary, helping to place us in the center of the tension-filled events. Both the acting and writing are intense and insightful. All too often, my colleagues in criticism and I overuse the expression “Powerful!” But, truly, “Nuremberg” deserves that adjective. Far too intense for children with its horrific descriptions and haunting pictures of unimaginable crimes, but it is a very important production for teens and adults. “Nuremberg” will remind viewers of how evil unleashed can devastate the world by blinding people to injustice and cruelty. I had to look away when the actual films of concentration camp savagery were presented, but when I read in the press notes that the same footage was shown at the real trial, I realized that including this film gave the production a strength missing in many presentations that discuss the holocaust.
One complaint is the inclusion of an implied affair between Baldwin’s character and his secretary. I suspect it was a device, along with other incriminating comments about American wrongdoing, simply there to establish that Americans were not spotless doves. (Indeed, this TV-movie does its best to point out America’s faults. This may not be the wisest of tactics when referring to U.S. involvement in WWII. The sacrifice made by men and woman during the ‘40s should not be tarnished by Monday-morning historians, not yet born at that time.) Including this adulterous affair (which, as I said, is implied) seemed unnecessary in a film jam-packed with drama. I found this subplot insulting to both men and women. It infers that a man and a woman, both capable in their work, are unable to toil side by side without falling into lust. Still, it’s a small annoyance, given the important subject matter addressed in a production that keeps the viewer glued to the screen. Again, I say, it is powerful. However, due to the nudity which is shown, we cannot award this film our Dove Seal. It also comes to border of not being approved in the sex, language and violence categories.