2007 // Austria - Germany // Stefan Ruzowitzky // April 10, 2008 // Theatrical Print
C - The Counterfeiters presents the morally knotted tale of Operation Bernhard, the Nazis' effort to reproduce the British pound using Jewish counterfeiters. The film centers on the experience of master counterfeiter Salomon Sorowitsch, portrayed with grim precision by Austrian actor Karl Markovics. Like most capable dramas about World War II, the film treads a satisfactory balance between the shorthand characterization necessary for a feature length production and pockets of richer exploration. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky never works any real cinematic magic, but he does the minimum the material deserves by telling a fascinating story quite well. The counterfeiters' surreal existence as valuable but despised craftsmen is the story's most appealing angle, but it remains somewhat underdeveloped in favor of stock dramatic tension and twists. Ruzowitzky finds some intriguing approaches here and there, as when he highlights the fractures between subgroups within the Jewish prisoner population (habitual criminals, Communists, etc.) Still, there's something more than a little disappointing about a film where the concept is more electric than the execution. In the end, The Counterfeiters is a notable addition to the swelling body of Holocaust dramas, if only for its unusual subject matter and fine performances.