out of Five
Running time: 101
Beautifully shot drama with solid performances and impressive aerial dogfight sequences, but the plot is surprisingly dull and it's hard to engage with the characters.
What's it all about?
Directed by Nikolai Mullerschon, The Red Baron is a German drama (though filmed in English, with English-speaking actors) about WWI flying ace Baron Manfred von Richthofen (Matthias Schweighofer), aka The Red Baron. With his brightly painted red Fokker aircraft, the 24-year-old Richthofen becomes a national hero, famous the world over for his success in aerial dogfights.
However, von Richthofen gradually comes to resent his role in the German propaganda machine, particularly when he falls in love with the beautiful nurse Kate (Lena Headey) and realises that there's more to war than a running tally of downed enemies. Meanwhile, von Richthofen also finds himself clashing with both his ambitious, patriotic brother Lothar (Volkar Bruch) and his sworn enemy, Allied Forces' Canadian pilot, Captain Roy Brown (Joseph Fiennes).
The film is beautifully shot, with striking cinematography by Klaus Merkel and several impressively staged aerial dogfight sequences. The production design work is equally good, with special attention paid to the planes themselves.
Schweighofer is fine in the lead and there's decent support from Bruch and Headey, as well as Til Schweiger, Maxim Mehmet and Hanno Koffler as von Richthofen's fellow officers. However, Fiennes is a little wooden.
The main problem with the film is that, despite a plot that is seemingly tailor-made for emotional drama, it remains distinctly uninvolving and it's impossible to really care about any of the characters. This is largely down to an extremely dull script that doesn't really give the actors anything to work with, but it doesn't help that there's no real chemistry between Schweighofer and Headey.
It's fair to say, then, that Mullerschon is much better at directing action scenes and dogfight sequences than the emotional conflict down on the ground and the film is extremely patchy as a result.
The Red Baron is impressively shot and has some great dogfight sequences but it's badly let down by a dull script and fails to engage on an emotional level.