With Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, screenwriter Fred Breinersdorfer and director Marc Rothemund use newly uncovered transcripts to further our understanding of Germany's now-celebrated martyr of Nazi resistance. At age 21, Scholl and her brother Hans were key players in the White Rose, a group comprised of rebellious Munich University students. In 1943, in the waning days of WWII, the Scholls found themselves corralled by the Nazi government and interrogated.
The White Rose's non-violent resistance came in the form of leaflets and treatises, and Scholl points out that the Nazis' intolerance of any opposing views only shows their insecurity; a look around the globe confirms this behavior is hardly tucked safely into history books. Scholl's yearning for freedom and escape at times becomes repetitive, but Breinersdorfer supplies engaging, extended debates between Sophie (Julia Jentsch) and Gestapo interrogator Robert Mohr Alexander Held). "You're so gifted," Mohr muses. "Why don't you think and feel like us?"
Rothemund's film, like last year's Downfall, benefits from its scrupulous treatment of history and generally restrained performances (tune out the brief eruptions of overwrought music). If anything, the Sophie Scholl narrative is more claustrophobic and more punishing than Downfall, as we stand always at Scholl's side, from underground meeting to illicit mission to interrogation to bristling show trial and beyond. Scholl's family ties and belief in God give what could otherwise be an ice-cold film some warmth, and the folkloric character of a Passion play or the story of Joan of Arc.