When an Austrian filmmaker who makes no secret of the fact that his grandparents were Nazi sympathizers makes a fact-based movie (nominated by the Academy for best foreign film) about a Jewish forger who survived the concentration camps by printing money for the German war effort, is he a brave boy or a rotten apple falling unpleasantly close to his nation's tarnished tree? Viennese actor Karl Markovics gives a masterful portrayal of Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch, a shifty-eyed, hatchet-faced criminal Jew, but The Counterfeiters plays like a realist drama made to spring Sorowitsch from stereotype and expose him as a flawed man torn between his Darwinian credo (adapt) and a fatherly desire to protect the weak. Writer-director Stefan Ruzowitzky keeps the physical brutality peripheral, in part to underscore the predicament of the counterfeiters, who live in a velvet prison next door to the hell that other inmates suffer. Based on a memoir by Adolf Burger (August Diehl), a Communist inmate who opposed Sorowitsch's collusion and advocated sabotage, the film succumbs to a heroic climax of sorts. But at its best and queasiest The Counterfeiters asks what counts as moral behavior under fascism and whether one's first duty is to survive.
Stefan RuzowitzkyKarl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow, Martin Brambach, August Zirner, Veit Stübner, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Andreas Schmidt, Tilo Prückner, Lenn KudrjawizkiAdolf Burger, Stefan RuzowitzkyJosef Aichholzer, Nina Bohlmann, Babette SchröderSony Pictures Classics