Based on the real-life heroics of East German swimming champ Hasso Herschel—here
called Harry Melchior (Ferch)—Richter's film nods to old-fashioned capers such
as The Great Escape but still plays like a pedestrian docudrama filled
with tears and triumph. Harry successfully slips over to West Berlin just as the
Wall is being completed, in August 1961. Determined to rescue his sister from
Communist misery, the hunky swimmer teams up with his engineer pal Matthis
(Koch) and other freedom fighters to dig the 145-yard-long titular passage.