Title – Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
Director – Stanley Kramer (On the Beach)
Cast – Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Maximilian Schell, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, William Shatner
Plot – In Germany of 1948 a group of American judges lead by Chief Judge Dan Haywood (Tracy) try four Nazi judges for their acts committed during the war time in what is a case that is anything but black and white.
“We must forget if we want to go on living”
Review by Eddie on 21/07/2021
Full too the brim with more star wattage fire power than a dozen other films combined, Stanley Kramer’s Oscar winning courtroom epic Judgment at Nuremberg is a powerful and ageless dialogue heavy classic that remains to this day one of the best World War 2 themed films, all without ever firing a single shot or even a single battle.
Inspired by real life courtroom trials that came to public attention in the aftermath of the great war as Nazi members were trialed for their actions during the horrific period in Germany’s history, Kramer and Nuremberg’s writer Abby Mann (with unofficial work from one of the films stars Montgomery Clift) spend a great deal of time exploring the after effects of the Nazi reign on Germany and how those caught up in the situation dealt with what was for all intents and purposes a hopeless situation to be a part of.
Lead by a powerful performance from its main focus Spencer Tracy as aging American judge Dan Haywood (who delivers a stunning final monologue in the films later stretches), we only spend brief moments of Nuremberg’s runtime outside of the sweat inducing caught room action that sees Maximillian Schell’s defense lawyer Hans Rolfe go head to head with Richard Winmark’s American army lawyer Col. Tad Lawson but the film never feels small or confined by its devices as we explore the mental anguish and eye opening examinations of what the war meant outside of the battlefield, what it meant to those everyday people who were nothing more than pawns in a much bigger game of life and death.
In this loaded ensemble we also get a memorable Burt Lancaster turn as German judge Dr. Ernst Janning with both the actors performance and characters arc making for an extremely moving examination of a good man caught in an horrific predicament while screen legends such as Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland and a very young William Shatner all deliver great turns with varying degrees of screen time, ensuring Nuremberg is one of the era’s most well-rounded examples of a collection of once in a generation talents.
The whole production is beautifully constructed by the often underappreciated Stanley Kramer who alongside this effort and the likes of On the Beach, Guess Whose Coming to Dinner, comedy gem It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World and The Defiant Ones, established himself as a director of true worth that may not have received the plaudits of some of his era’s peers but remains a director with a fantastic catalogue of films he managed to produce in a career that will stand tall during the tests of time.
Final Say –
Powerful and emotion packed without the need for any theatrics, Judgment at Nuremberg is one of the most stunning cinematic examples of a courtroom and World War 2 drama respectively and is a film that should continue to be adored by cinephiles for the years yet to come.
5 Opa’s out of 5