Amen.

In the corridors of power, the world's fate rests with arrogant men who eat well and noisily, devouring rare steaks and buttery slabs of chicken and pork in surround sound, then washing it down with a red wine that might as well be the blood of the innocents. As a visual shorthand for evil, it doesn't get lazier than that, but more might be expected of Costa-Gavras (Z, Missing), the veteran Greek director whose name is virtually synonymous with conscientious political thrillers. The latest in a series of swipes at the Vatican for its failure to recognize and condemn the Holocaust, Amen. should be a powderkeg of a movie, yet the urgency and force that defined Costa-Gavras' earlier work has been drained away, along with his invigorating newsreel craft. What remains is a tepid, painfully earnest form of Europudding, an international bouillabaisse of varying German accents, flat characterizations, and encounters with history that may be factually accurate, but ring false in their particulars. Based on a stage play (which explains some of its stilted talkiness), the film plays fast and loose with the truth by shoehorning the story of a real-life SS chemist in with that of a fictional priest who takes advantage of his lofty familial connections within the Catholic Church. Ulrich Tukur brings conviction, though not presence, to the deeply conflicted SS officer, a devout Protestant who undergoes a crisis of conscience when he discovers that the Zyklon B gas he was supplying to the troops for water purification is being used for genocide. Horrified by his tour of a concentration camp, Tukur risks his life trying to motivate church leaders to alert the world to the mass executions, but the response is either apathy or disbelief, with many dismissing his fatality rates as outrageously high. After his plea to the Papal Nuncio in Berlin is tossed aside, Tukur finds an unlikely ally in Mathieu Kassovitz, an idealistic young Jesuit priest who promises to take his findings straight to Pope Pius XII for official condemnation. Given their religious and political differences, Tukur and Kassovitz would seem to make a compelling odd couple, but Costa-Gavras flattens them into two-dimensional crusaders for righteousness, martyrs for a lost cause. The idea of a principled humanist within the SS is rife with juicy contradictions, but Tukur's heroism never comes into question, which at times makes him seem spectacularly naïve in the face of Nazi atrocities. A few scenes serve as potent reminders of the "banality of evil"—the supply and efficiency of the gas canisters is discussed like produce stock at a grocery store—but Amen. misses the complex political shadings behind a charge that still has contemporary resonance.

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