by David DiCerto, Catholic News Service
Based on the true story of Germany's most famous anti-Nazi heroine, director Marc Rothemund's gripping drama chronicles, as its title suggests, the last six days in the life of Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch), a 21-year-old college student executed by the Nazis for treason in 1943. . . .
Hoping to incite a student uprising, Sophie agrees to help her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) -- they are both members of a resistance group known as the "White Rose" -- to distribute anti-war leaflets on campus, an act for which they are promptly arrested. . . .
Like the protagonists in last year's similarly themed "The Ninth Day" (also from Germany), the exchanges between Sophie and [Gestapo interrogator Robert] Mohr become a battle of wills, as much as ideologies, as Mohr's atheistic views clash with Sophie's unruffled appeals to "decency, morals and God" and unwavering conviction that "all life is precious." . . .
Unvarnished by oversentimentality, the film is a quietly powerful testament to bravery in the face of evil that examines themes of freedom of conscience and peaceful resistance to tyranny while imparting a strong anti-war message. . . .
by Steven D. Greydanus, National Catholic Register
Overall Recommendability: A+
Marc Rothemund’s Sophie Scholl – The Final Days is a riveting portrait of a young woman of formidable intellect, dogged self-possession, and excruciatingly steady nerves. At 21, Sophia Magdalena Scholl (Julia Jentsch) is old enough to have outgrown the brash overconfidence of immaturity, but not yet too old for the purity and ardor of youthful idealism. She is realistic enough to be afraid, yet bold enough to act unhesitatingly, even dramatically when the situation seems to call for it. . . .
Drawing on once-unavailable Nazi transcripts from Sophie’s interrogation among other historical sources, Rothemund’s film, like Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, bypasses the events that lead its heroine to her trial by fire in order to contemplate how a young woman courageous enough to be brought to such an extremity acquits herself when it comes to the point. . . . The sheer intellectual and emotional rigor of the back-and-forth between this terrible old lion and his cagey young prey is both crushing and exhilarating. . . .
Throughout her ordeal, Sophie’s guiding light — symbolized by the rays of the sun, often regarded by Sophie with upturned face — is her Christian faith, a cornerstone of her critique of Nazi ideology and atrocities, and a taproot of her moral strength. A devout Protestant, Sophie unapologetically invokes God and conscience under cross-examination as the basis for her actions, the source of human dignity and the necessary guiding light to put the German people on the path to recovery. In her private moments, when she allows herself to be vulnerable and afraid, Sophie opens her heart to God, pleading for help and strength. In an hour of extreme need she gladly prays with a prison chaplain, receiving his blessing in the name of the Holy Trinity. . . .
Throughout the film, viewers are invited to put themselves in Sophie’s place: Would I have had the courage and vision to do what she did? In the scene with her parents, viewers may find themselves identifying as much with father or mother as with their daughter: What if it were my child? Would I be as proud and supportive amid such overwhelming circumstances? Not for all the world would I want to go through what Sophie’s parents do; but I hope and pray to see my children grow up into young adults not unlike Sophie Scholl. . . .
by Jeffrey Overstreet, Christianity Today
If the real Sophie Scholl was anything like the character played by Jentsch here—and the extensive research performed by director Mark Rothemund and screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer indicates that she was—then she deserves a place alongside history's most revered and celebrated Christian women. . . .
In the opening scenes, she's an enthusiastic, appealing student with an irrepressible zeal for the truth. She helps her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) and a covert operation called "The White Rose" produce and distribute pamphlets that describe how the Third Reich caused the massacre at Stalingrad and forced Jews into concentration camps.
But when she's arrested, after a nerve-wracking covert operation at the nearby university, the true tests of her character begin. The virtue and verve that Scholl demonstrated, first in deceiving her interrogators, and later in endeavoring to save her friends and family from execution, will amaze you, just as the real Sophie Scholl inspired Germans. Today, more than a hundred German schools are named after her, and Jentsch's portrayal of Scholl may just inspire more brave young souls to pursue their own quests of justice and truth against all odds. . . .