Michael Herbig’s overwrought drama sucks the thrills out of this story of two families fleeing communist East Germany
You could probably choose a less conspicuous method of defecting than floating across the border in what looks like a giant glowing lightbulb. Yet a spectacular nocturnal breakout from communist East Germany by hot-air balloon is exactly what two families did in September 1979 – the basis of this glossy mainstream thriller released in Germany for last year’s reunification anniversary. Sadly, director Michael Bully Herbig – a well-known German comedy star – does them no favours with a frantic shooting style that somehow manages to render this terrifying endeavour both bombastic and trivial.
Friedrich Mücke and Karoline Schuch play the Strezlks, a disaffected electrician and his wife who, desiring an unfettered future for their two sons, decide to Montgolfier it out of the GDR. When a northerly wind rears up, they break out the balloon they have painstakingly constructed with their friends the Kretzels, before realising that it will hold only one family. The Strezlks go it alone, but their jerrybuilt rig fails them at 1,800 metres, leaving them short of the west and back to square one.
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