Well worth seeing. Costa-Gavras makes a gripping story out of Gerstein's account of his vain attempts to get the Vatican to speak out about the Nazi extermination programme. Pope Pius had praised Franco, helped Mussolini and welcomed Hitler, so he was reluctant to criticise the Nazi attack on the Jews. Gerstein expected his insider information to produce moral outrage, but the Vatican preferred not to know. "Hitler's Pope" by John Cornwell provides the historical details.
Time Out saysAn adaptation of Rolf Hochhuth's The Representative (1963), a free-verse play about the man who created Zyklon-B gas, but then failed to persuade the Vatican to denounce the Nazis' genocidal use of it. Its critique of papal inaction isn't righteously denunciatory so much as disconsolately aware that power prefers to deal behind closed doors. As a Holocaust movie, this follows recent convention in focusing on individuals tilting against the Nazi machine. Its protagonist Kurt Gerstein (Tukur) is a fraught, compromised character who continues his work for the regime in order to bear testimony to the Vatican and other unresponsive authorities. But the story introduces a more heroic parallel in the fictional figure of Kassovitz's papal delegate, who counters his elders' caution with, finally, mere desperate gestures. Costa-Gavras' direction is sometimes stolid and rarely more than pictorial, though he finds telling drama in a few scenes.