Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Doron and Yoav Paz
Writer: Doron and Yoav Paz
Cast: August Diehl, Sylvia Hoeks, Nikolai Kinski, Michael Aloni
Screened at: Critics’ link, LA, 10/22/22
Opens: October 14th, 2022
There is a notion of helplessness attributed to the victims of the Holocaust, who were unable to stand up to a murderous regime that targeted Jews and other people for extermination. Much of that is rooted in unwillingness of the masses to step in to defend those being marked for genocide and the complicity of the many who might have made a difference in carrying out orders. When the power dynamic shifted, however, those previously not in a position to exact justice for the crimes committed against them may indeed have taken the opportunity, as portrayed in the historical thriller Plan A.
Max (August Diehl) survives the Holocaust and returns to his family home in Germany in 1945 to find it inhabited by his former neighbors who turned him in to Nazi authorities. As he tries desperately to learn what has become of his wife and son, he meets Michael (Michael Aloni), a commander in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army helping with resettlement to the land of Palestine that would soon become Israel. He learns of revenge operations being undertaken in secret by Michael’s unit and later joins an ambitious plan to subvert and poison the water supply throughout a number of large German cities and punish those who let his family and people die.
This film is based on the true story of a group called Nakam who took on the mission of meting out justice on the German population, seeking to carry out a biblical “eye for an eye” decimation akin to what the Jews had suffered. It’s the kind of fodder that has been exponentially exaggerated and fictionalized in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds and the Prime Video series Hunters, and though many within the sights of the group in this film do meet an unhappy end, it’s largely devoid of the brutality that defines those two projects, especially in what is physically seen on screen.
This is an interesting direction for brothers Doron and Yoav Paz, who previously made The Golem and Jeruzalem, horror films with biblical themes. Plan A joins a long list of Holocaust films with a valuable educational component, though spotlighting this particular story would likely provide ammunition for those who claim that Jews might be just as bad as the Nazis who killed them, given the plot as portrayed here of mirroring the genocide inflicted upon them back on the perpetrators. That doesn’t make this story any less worthwhile or deserving of being told, but rather indicates an unfortunate trend for pieces of history to be bastardized and twisted for vicious and unproductive purposes.
Diehl, who played a Nazi in Inglourious Basterds, brings a true sense of exhaustion and resignation to Max, who has endured so much and has learned the power of hope to serve as a motivator, something he twists and wields as a weapon against the Nazis he wants to make suffer. It’s not quite as compelling a performance as the lived-in turn he delivered in A Hidden Life, portraying Austrian conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter, but there is an emotional intimacy to him that makes him a strong protagonist. Aloni, a popular Israeli actor, exhibits a swagger and confidence that helps to paint a more polished portrayal of Jewish resistance fighters during the era.
Plan A does include references to Max’s time in concentration camps and the people he has lost, but it is set after the Holocaust rather than during it, which guides much of the film’s content. It is about moving on or, in this case, not moving on and instead getting even. Most of the attention is paid to the production design and costumes, and the film’s effectiveness rests mainly on the potency of its narrative inspiration. The Paz brothers clearly feel passionately about the source material, and capably adapt it for a cinematic audience, relying on its conception as a thriller rather than a straight drama.
Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B
Overall – B