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78

Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics What's this?

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8.0

Generally favorable reviews- based on 26 Ratings

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  • Summary: The true story of Salomon Sorowitsch, counterfeiter extraordinaire and bohemian who was in captured by the Nazis in 1944. He agrees to help the Nazis in an organized counterfeiting operation set up to finance the war effort. It was the biggest counterfeit-money scam of all time. Over 130 million pounds sterling were printed under conditions that couldn't have been more tragic or spectacular. During the last years of the war, as the German Reich saw that the end was near, the authorities decided to produce their own banknotes in the currencies of their major war enemies. They hoped to use the duds to flood the enemy economy and fill the empty war coffers. At the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, two barracks were separated from the rest of the camp and the outside world, and transformed into a fully equipped counterfeiters workshop. "Operation Bernhard" was born. Prisoners were brought to Sachsenhausen from other camps to implement the plan, and professional printers, fastidious bank officials, and simple craftsmen all became members of the top-secret counterfeiter crew. They had a choice: If they cooperated with the enemy, they had a chance to survive as first-class prisoners in a "golden cage" with enough to eat and a bed to sleep in. If they sabotaged the operation, a sure death awaited them. For the counterfeiters, it was not only a question of saving their own lives, but also about saving their conscience as well... (Sony Classics) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 23
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 23
  3. Negative: 0 out of 23
  1. 100
    The Counterfeiters is in its own smart, trim fashion "The Bridge on the River Kwai" of concentration-camp sagas. Also based (like Kwai) on a real-life story, this movie starts small but becomes a miniature epic of overreach and moral drift.
  2. This poses some tricky moral questions, and its troubling ambiguities rank a cut above the dubious uplift of "Schindler's List."
  3. Swift and compelling, winner of this year’s Oscar for best foreign-language picture, The Counterfeiters may not be destined for the large international audience that embraced last year’s winner, “The Lives of Others.” But it’s the better, tougher film, with a more provocative moral dilemma at its center.
  4. A gripping, unusual and suitably harrowing -- if, in the final analysis, not particularly satisfying -- concentration camp drama.
  5. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    75
    Though extensively fictionalized -- Sorowitch is loosely based on the notorious, larger-than-life forger Salomon Smolianoff; Herzog on SS officer Bernhard Krueger, after whom the operation was named.
  6. A conventional mixture of thriller and moral drama, the film is unsettling in both intentional and unintentional ways.
  7. 67
    Markovics largely rescues the film with his mesmerizingly layered, steady performance as a man who solves the problem of compromise by refusing to admit that he's compromising.

See all 23 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 11
  2. Negative: 0 out of 11
  1. Feb 10, 2013
    9
    Cooperating with the enemy has been explored in other holocaust films such as "Kapo" and "The Grey Zone", but the struggle between survival and conscience has rarely been more clearly drawn than in "The Counterfeiters"-- Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film (2008). Based on the memoir "The Devil's Workshop" by Adolf Burger, one of the survivors of the program, "The Counterfeiters" is the story of Operation Bernhard, a little known World War II program engineered by the Nazis to use Jewish prisoners to subvert the currencies of the U.S. and the U.K through forgery. One of the biggest scams of the war, the counterfeiting operation printed over 130 million pounds sterling in its attempt to destabilize the allied cause and help the sinking German economy.
    "The Counterfeiters" tells the true story of a group of Jewish prisoners who were recruited from other camps for such a career--much against their wishes, if not for the threat of death. Being skilled craftsmen in their own right, they are all brought together, and realize that so long as they deliver the counterfeit bills to their captives, they'll be spared their lives. Boastful, talented Russian-Jewish counterfeiter Salomon Sorowitsch is sent to the Sachenhausen concentration camp to orchestrate the operation, and forced to deal with a psychopathic guard named Holst (Martin Brambach), who only wants results. At first Salomon has no issues helping the Nazi's for comfortable conditions for himself and staff, but over time it begins to take it's toll. He is torn between his determination to stay alive with the knowledge that producing the perfect American dollar will affect the lives of his fellow workers, as well as undermine the entire Allied cause.
    "The Counterfeiters" differs from other films involving the Holocaust in that the emphasis is on the personal moral choices that are made--rather than the overall horror and despair. The two barracks of Jews working on the project are kept in what they call a "golden cage," in which they have enough to eat, beds with clean linen, and piped-in opera music to drown out the sounds of the murders committed on the other side of their thin plywood walls. The prisoners' dilemma over whether to assist the Germans and thereby ensure their continued survival is the heart of the movie, which keeps the focus on moral imperatives rather than the physical ravages of the camps. Ruzowitzky's film is so gripping because his is able to simulate the daily horror's of these men with remarkable subtlety; although the workers are sheltered from seeing the brutality and torture, the screams alone are terrifying. Karl Markovics gives a phenomenal, profound performance and his disturbing moral ambiguity is a the heart of this incredible true story. Stefan Ruzowitzy adapted the book by Adolf Burger, one of the protagonist's fellow prisoners (Diehl). Ruzowitzky's script is beautifully constructed, and to his credit, does not take a position on the internal debate, but gives the viewer enough leeway to question what they would have done in similar circumstances.
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  2. Sep 17, 2010
    8
    Austrian film about Saloman Sorowitsch, a Jewish counterfeiter who was spared the concentration camps in WWII to run a fake currency production for the Nazis.
    Moving, disturbing & great performances from Karl Markovics in the lead & Martin Brambach who gives Ralph Fiennes's Amon Goeth a run for his money as the thoroughly unpleasant Holst.
    Definitely worth a watch.
    Expand

See all 11 User Reviews

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