THE KEEPER (2018)
Starring David Kross, Freya Mavor, John Henshaw, Harry Melling, Michael Socha, Dave Johns, Barbara Young, Chloe Harris, Mikey Collins, Gary Lewis, Dervla Kirwan, Angus Barnett, Max Befort, Butz Ulrich Buse, Ian T. Dickinson, Stuart Donaghy, Jay Johnson, Florian Kroop, Tom Machell, Tobias Masterson, Olivia-Rose Minnis, Tony Wright and Julian Sands.
Screenplay by Marcus H. Rosenmüller, Nicholas J. Schofield and Robert Marciniak.
Directed by Marcus H. Rosenmüller.
Distributed by Warner Bros. 118 minutes. Not Rated.
It’s easy to forget sometimes that just because the Nazis were evil, not everyone who wore the Nazi uniform was. Some were normal, nice guys who “had no choice.” However, even if they were good people who were put in a bad situation, does that excuse the bad things they did – or even that they were a part of?
That’s a pretty heavy philosophical argument to be made in a sports biofilm.
The Keeper is based on the true story of Bert Trautmann (the original title of this film was Trautmann when it played in Europe in 2018), who went from German POW in a British camp to a famous goalie for the Manchester City football team. That’s soccer for us Yanks.
He became a legendary goalkeeper who played way over a decade for Man City, eventually becoming deified in that football-mad town. In fact, he was such a trouper that he played much of one championship game with a broken neck after an accident on the field, just barely avoiding death or paralysis.
However, when he first started playing professionally – first for a local team whose coach saw him playing at a prisoner-of-war camp, and then eventually in the big time – it was right after World War II. A former Nazi soldier was a hard sell for the teams, even though he was just a foot soldier for the Nazis, and he was a particularly good goalie.
He was still haunted by his experience in the army, particularly one experience with a little boy with a soccer ball.
The Keeper does a good job of balancing the sports drama, the war drama and the personal drama, so that it doesn’t feel as cookie-cutter as many “based on a true story” sports films. In fact, in certain ways his athletic career, though probably the most purely entertaining part of the movie, is downplayed from some of the more tragic aspects of Trautmann’s life.
Also, his sweet relationship with his future wife – the daughter of his first coach who doesn’t quite trust the guy because of his background but can’t help liking him – is bracingly realistic and not swooningly romantic. They fit together and she is willing to take a bet on him, but she has her own thoughts, beliefs and needs.
At one point, when she asks him why he never really told her about his experience in the Nazi troops, he asks her if she would feel comfortable telling him of her worst experience. All in all, The Keeper is a bittersweet but rousing look at people overcoming past ghosts.
Bert Trautmann is not as well-known in the US as he is in Europe, but his life story has a lot to teach us.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2020 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: October 2, 2020.