Amen. got an indifferent response from critics and box-office alike, but its easily Costa-Gavras' best film in a couple of decades. While it doesn't have is the rough and raw anger of his early classics, or the emotional weight of Missing, it's a compelling tale well told. Based on the true story of a German chemist and devout Catholic promoted to the SS who, on finding out what use the chemicals he inspected are really put to, tried to make the existence of the Nazi extermination policy known in the hopes of stopping it (not without precedent: as the film shows, the Catholic Church and public outrage did prevent the earlier extermination program for the mentally ill). Unfortunately for the would-be whistleblower, no-one wanted to know: they either didn't care or didn't believe the sheer enormity of the numbers of victims.
Ulrich Tukur is impressive in the lead, portraying the moral outrage and frustrated urgency without resorting to theatrics, though Matthieu Kassovitz's priest (a composite of several characters) is less convincing despite his best efforts. The most interesting character, however, is Ulrich Muhe's 'Doctor,' a fellow SS officer unconvinced by the Nazi rhetoric but more than morally ambivalent and pragmatic enough to go along with his 'unsophisticated' colleagues. He's a constantly unnerving presence because of his honesty and his playfulness: you're never quite sure what his position is, although you never doubt his own certainty in himself.
Much was made at the time of release at the finger pointed at the Catholic Church for their complicity by silence in the Holocaust, but the film doesn't limit its frustration to the Church - the Allies are equally culpable of pragmatic neglect. The script is an impressively constructed, with early scenes flowing effortlessly into each other as they demolish the concept that ordinary Germans were powerless to resist, establishing a moral framework for the drama that follows. The resolution of Kassovitz's character veers into cliche nd the enormity of the main character's loss of faith is slightly taken for granted at the end (his final action is a total rejection of the fundamental principles of Catholicism that fuel his doomed efforts), but it's nonetheless a powerful movie that deserves to be better known.
Unlike the UK PAL release, which only has the trailer as an extra, Kino's Region 1 NTSC version also includes a making of documentary.