World War films are always fascinating. There are still so many true stories to be told about the darkest period of European history. With each film, one gets to see the horrors that most of the European countries went through and the heinous treatment of the Jews throughout the continent. Blood & Gold, a German language Netflix Original, is a fiction story set when the war was reaching its conclusion. Directed by Peter Thorwarth, the movie is about a stock of gold bars that some people want to get their hands on. A company of the German army and a mayor, along with his accomplices, in a local town badly want this treasure. Will they get their hands on it?
The film begins with German army soldiers chasing Private Heinrich and wanting to get a hold of him. Once Heinrich is finally caught, he is sentenced to death by Lt. Colonel von Starnfeld, his superior officer, for the crime of deserting the army. The army hangs him and leaves him to rot once he dies, but fortunately, the man is helped by a local woman. Her name is Elsa, and she happens to hate the Nazis for kidnapping her father. She tries to save Heinrich because she is intrigued to know why he would desert the army. Heinrich bonds with Elsa and her brother Paule over their shared hatred and forms an unusual union.
The company of men led by Lt. Colonel von Starnfeld reaches a town in Sonnenberg in search of the gold biscuits he had heard of. There was news of the treasure being hidden somewhere within the ruins of the home of the Lowensteins, the only Jewish family in town. They were forced to give up their homes, livelihood and head for the concentration camp because of Germany’s racist policies. The gold belonged to them, not the Germans, but the mayor and his accomplices, and later the company chief, wanted to get their hands on this stash of valuables for their selfish purposes. The Colonel comes across as desperate for the gold, but Robert Schlick, the mayor, is not very keen on letting the Colonel know its whereabouts. How will Heinrich’s life get intertwined with this quest for gold his former company commander has begun?
If you have seen any Quentin Tarantino movies, especially Inglourious Basterds, it would be hard not to notice how much Peter Thorwarth has been inspired by Quentin’s style of filmmaking. From the gore to the humor laced in tense situations to the unhinged style of action, and the over-the-top execution of the screenplay. But again, blatant similarity with Quentin’s style of filmmaking becomes jarring after a point. It would have been interesting to watch Peter make the style and the film his own product. Nevertheless, the direction of the film is very tense and tight, which makes the viewing experience very engaging from the start until the end. It is the story and screenplay that make sure the entire movie remains intact and does not fall apart like a house of cards. The narrative is complex yet easy to follow.
There are no unnecessary subplots added just for the sake of it. The two main plots, which are Henrich and Elsa’s journey to get hold of her brother Paule and the Colonel’s quest for the gold. These plots converge to make the narrative interesting and does not confuse the viewers. The writing by Stefan Barth allows the viewers to remain hooked on every single character in the film. Each of them has their own goals and setbacks, be they antagonists or protagonists. The screenplay is set up in such a manner that it makes the viewer want to know what the result will be. Who will finally hold the gold, and how will they get it? The intense direction of the movie allows the narrative to go in the right direction. The director here is taking you on a journey, and viewers are part of the horrors they witness. The army is keen on getting the treasure, even though there are strong rumors of the German army losing the war. The story also allowed the writers to bring to the forefront how women were sidelined by the SS, but here three ladies made sure to stand up to the men and fight tooth and nail to get what they wanted. It is also interesting that the writer brought in the stories of people in Germany who were openly resisting the Nazi party and their antisemitic laws. Peter Thorwarth’s ability to give this film a Western touch, along with a sensational vibe, makes Blood & Gold a solid watch.
The action choreography is the highlight of the film because the stunts are choreographed in such a manner that they easily slip into the narrative of the film. Stunts in many films come across as jarring and unnecessary, but in this movie, Peter, along with the action director Vi-Dan Tran, gives us one-of-a-kind action scenes that make the viewing experience over the top, but at the same time, it does not feel as if the director got carried away by adding too many fight sequences. It was just enough to keep the narrative interesting and not allow the story to go on the back foot. The story is the center of this film because, after a point, it would seem the movie is over, but the writer and the director here give the audience multiple scenarios of who would get away with the gold. This does not increase the length of the film or make it tiresome; it just increases the intrigue by five to ten minutes more.
The technical department of this film has aced it with an excellent sound design that also captures the sound of the fancy trench coats that the army officers wear. The no-music action sequences that deliver every punch to the audience’s ears elevate the viewing experience by many folds. The film is only about two places, but the cinematography showcases the brutality of the ethnic cleansing the Germans carried out. It has reached a point where there are so many films available for reference to recreate Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Doing that job is tough, but most of the time, the production design team does a fabulous job. The clothes, landscapes, vehicles, and weapons have been recreated without overdoing it.
The performances were the only department that I felt was lacking in the film. There are no standout performances, but the actors have not ruined the film per se. Robert Maaser as Heinrich, Alexander Scheer as Von Starnfeld, and Florian Schmidtke as Dorfler deliver good performances. It is the story and its treatment that make this film stand out, and rightly so. The story was about the journey as well as reaching the destination. Designated people reach the designated places they are supposed to, and the conclusion feels highly satisfying. Blood & Gold brings to the table all the characteristics that are required to make a historical action film a success. Please give this film a watch.