24 July 2013 | jjturley
A thrilling escape from East Germany
This made-for-television movie is about an adventurous escape from communist East Germany. The year is 1984, and three teenage boys (Frank Korbach, Alex Baumgarten, and Thomas Peitz) are living in Brandenburg an der Havel, a city located near Berlin. These young men see no future in East Germany and would like a better life in the West. One of them gets in contact with a "human smuggler", who agrees to take them out of East Germany for a fee. It is illegal and dangerous. The Stasi (State Security Service of East Germany) are aware of what the boys are up to and are watching them.
Unknown to the boys, Frank's father (Kurt) is an important man in the Stasi. After the three boys vanish, Kurt is convinced that his son is innocent of any wrong-doing and leads the investigation in finding them. Meanwhile, Frank's mother (Beate) wants to help her son escape and gives him the name of a man (Max Steiner) in Gera (a city to their south) who can help. To complicate things further, one of the boys (Alex) is a diabetic needing access to insulin.
Meeting Max and his daughter (Maria) in Gera, a plan is hatched to cross the border into Czechoslovakia. That border is not as strongly enforced as the border separating the two Germanys; but there again, if the Czech authorities catch them, they would return them to East Germany. And as they continue their journey yet further along, the ultra-determined Stasi seems to be one or two steps behind them.
For a television movie, I thought this was excellent. It did not seem at all "low-budget". The acting was convincing, and the locations in East Germany looked authentic. No doubt, there are parts of Germany that still look this way. But in addition to that, there were the old cars (Trabis), clothes, phone booths and the like. It took effort to get this appearance.
The personal situations of the three escapees were also realistic. Many of the people who escaped from East Germany were young and seeking a better life. East Germany offered very few opportunities to move ahead. Over the years, people tried many clever ways to escape; some of these ways, like underground tunneling out of East Berlin, were fantastic. But it was always dangerous. Many people died trying to leave. And if people were caught, they had to serve a sentence in prison for "illegally" leaving the country.