It's East Germany 1979 at the height of the Cold War. Two families tired of the oppressive regime are desperate to leave the DDR for a better life in the West. Peter an electrician, and Doris Strelzyk have two sons as do Günter a bricklayer and his wife Petra Wetzel. Peter a tinkerer and Günter a genius at calculations decide to escape with their families in a hot air balloon which they'll make from scratch. Günter undertakes to sew 1000 square metres of fabric over the next 18 months to carry them over the border fence to freedom.
Needing strong northerly winds which are rare, they keep a close eye on the weather but at the moment of escape, Günter decides not to leave. Heading out in the dark of night, Peter and his family get the balloon off the ground to escape. However, the weather has other plans and as canisters freeze and the wet weather makes the fabric heavier, things go awry and they crash just 200 metres short of freedom. Leaving behind a lot of evidence for the Stasi (State Police), to find in their bid to return home as if nothing has happened; a tense nerve-racking race begins before they're found out.
Straight up, this is a film you don't want to miss! The manhunt has enough tension to keep you on the edge of your seat in this race against time. Thomas Kretschmann is brilliant as Oberstleutnant Seidel. His approach to his character as the cool, level headed, seemingly approachable Stasi on the surface, with fearsome, swift punitive actions bubbling within is carried out to perfection in a standout performance.
The rest of the cast along with the thumping musical score do well to keep the tension up as the film strings the audience along with emotional content well performed by all the actors. To realise that this is a true story of two families building a balloon in a cellar in a first ever escape of this kind is beyond comprehension.
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