It would be easy for a movie like Bye Bye Germany, which follows a group of Jewish salesmen trying to raise the money to immigrate to America, to be glib. It’s set up like a just-out-of–World War II Ocean’s 11, after all, complete with a recruitment montage as its cast comes together. But Sam Garbarski’s film doesn’t skimp on hard truths or otherwise smooth out the edges of a history that the world is still grappling with today. The ramifications of tough wartime choices — wartime collaboration, retribution, and whether to pass as non-Jewish — all come into play, and it’s to Garbarski’s credit that the shifts between heavier subjects and the more capery nature of the basic plot don’t feel forced, with just one of the many storylines edging into stranger territory.
Though the film might ultimately be a little too neat, that shortcoming is made up for by the core performances. As Bermann, the mastermind behind the sales operation, Moritz Bleibtreu slips perfectly into the Danny Ocean role without losing sight of the fact that any explicitly postwar story is, in part, a ghost story. And of the assembled team, Vaclav Jakoubek is especially impressive, his character’s human decency at odds with his desire to get some kind of justice for the atrocities of war. The story digs deep enough that the cheese Garbarski lays on at the end feels well-earned. It’s a charmingly made film, and if you need any further proof of its merit, just know that I cried.
Bye Bye Germany
Directed by Sam Garbarski
Opens April 27, Landmark 57 West
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