Kongo (Congo) (2010)
Director: Peter Keglevic.
Starring: Maria Simon (Oberleutnant Nicole Ziegler), Jörg Schüttauf (Hauptmann Kosak), Maximilian Brückner (Feldwebel Werner Malinck), Florence Kasumba (Sprachmittlerin Noelle), David Rott (Feldwebel Marco Bogner), Hannes Wegener (Obergefreiter Philip Althaus), Götz Schubert (Oberst Lonsky), Regula Grauwiller (Stabsärztin Lessja Neuner), Jodi Balfour (Johanna Wenz).
In German with German and English subtitles.
elite troops from Germany fight in eastern Congo; a military policewoman discovers a heinous crime in a rough war
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
A black boy pleads for his life. A European soldier shoots him in the head anyway.
A helicopter sets down in the Congo. Two German military police personnel get off the helicopter. One is a woman, Lt. Nicole Ziegler. The other is a fellow named Sgt. Malinck. The two have come to look into the death of Sgt. Wenz. There to meet them is Captain Kosak, who is none to happy about the presence of a female military police officer. The Germans get in the vehicles and roll out. They go right through a checkpoint without stopping. A car is burning by the side of the road.
The border of Rwanda is 20 km away. The Captain says it's their job to help repatriate refugees. They run into some teenaged armed native boys who are called the Alligator Boys, who torture, loot and rape. They love to wear the clothes of the people they have killed. At first, the teenagers just stand in the road blocking the two military vehicles. After awhile, they just walk around the two vehicles. The Captain calls it in: "An OMF of 12 people is headed south." Captain Kosak says 10 km from here Hutu rebels killed four United Nations Blue Berets.
Bukavu Military Camp. EUFOR --- German Division of the European Deployment Force. The base has a lot of tents set up that serve as barracks for the deployment force. Nicole tells the Captain that she wants to start working right away. So the Captain takes her to a tent use as a bar. He says the place was empty two days ago at 16:30 hours. Sgt. Wenz came in and ordered a coke from staff member Miriam M'Bene. She went to the kitchen to get the coke and she heard a shot. She stands as if frozen and keeps letting the coke overflow the glass. She sees the blood from the back of the sergeant's head on the plastic window of the tent. They figure that Sgt. Wenz shot himself with his own pistol.
Nicole immediately starts interviewing Miriam. She says she was in the kitchen three minutes before she heard the shot. Nicole thinks that is a really long time just to get a cola. And now she wants to see the corpse. A female medical officer shows her the body. She says the sergeant was right-handed and shot himself through the mouth with the bullet coming out of the back of his head. Nicole asks why do they think the man killed himself? The Captain speaks up saying that for many soldier the chaos and the killing prove too much for them to handle. The medical officer says that the sergeant suffered from frequent nightmares. Nicole asks if foul play has been ruled out? That bothersome Captain speaks up saying: "Being nitpicky and asking stupid questions must be part of your job." And he says that they are right in the midst of a civil war, with millions of dead. "Rebel troops are killing each other."
The Colonel comes in and the Captain hopes he will be on his side, but the Colonel says he is glad that the lieutenant has come. And Captain Kosak will help her anyway he can.
Nicole goes to talk with one of the friends of Wenz. The fellow says that Wenz liked kids and had a great sense of humor. He was also an idealist. They hear some yelling and the soldiers tells the Lieutenant that the yells are from the Alligator Boys. They like to get high by burning plastic bottles. The head of the group is a Hutu, called Captain Crocodile. He also says they found a woman back there all hacked up.
Nicole now calls Wenz's wife and asks her if she noticed anything out of the ordinary before the death of her husband? It turns out that the wife just got back home this morning at 4 a.m.. So now Nicole has to tell her that her husband is dead. She says that something terrible has happened.
Wenz's group sergeant says that Wenz and his wife Johanna would fight over the phone. She didn't want her husband returning handicapped or in a coffin. Johanna has a new lover. Nicole wants to know where is Wenz's cellular telephone? Nicole and the sergeant start looking through the garbage in the dumpster. The sergeant hates this job and whines that there is no phone in the dumpster. Just then, Nicole finds a phone. She finds that Wenz made three recent phone calls to Johanna.
The Colonel comes in to see her. He tells her that the guys have seen a lot of women soldiers and civilian women, but not a female officer and they are a bit unnerved by it. He tells her not to take it personally. He gives her some extra water and leaves.
Nicole tries to take a shower, but can't seem to get the showers to work properly for her. The medical officer speaks with her. Her name is Lessja. She tells Nicole: "I loved how you stood up to Kosak. The look on his face!"
The next day Nicole checks through the cellular phone again. She sees and hears Wenz apologizing for what happened recently and pleads with his wife not to leave him. And then she sees the murder recorded -- the one mentioned at the start of the film. She is shocked. The sergeant tells her to come on because they are leaving in 20 minutes.
Nicole goes to see the Captain, who still keeps giving her a really hard time. She shows him the film of the murder of the black man. The Captain says that film isn't even real. But Nicole thinks it is. She says Wenz tried to get rid of the film and his phone before he died. She now asks what happened on July 24th? The captain won't cooperate. So she takes the matter to the Colonel and shows him the film. She asks the Colonel what were Wenz's assignments on July 24? If she could know this, it could be of great help in determining where the film was made. Nicole is determined to go over Wenz's patrol areas.
Nicole gets permission and a little convoy goes with her. They have trouble going through a black town because the villagers surround the military vehicles for awhile. Nicole asks the soldiers if they ever make short films that they show to their families? No answers are forthcoming.
They come upon a building where the soldiers say it was much livelier August 8 at 15:00 hours. It's a school in Bagheera funded by European aid. The school is a wreck now. At one time 60 kids attended the school. The Alligator Boys are the ones who wrecked the school. The German soldiers arrived soon after the damage was done. Captain Crocodile does this to get more young kids to be his soldiers. He has now about 100 soldiers. And no one knows what Captain Crocodile looks like. He could be any one of these black men that they see around them.
They get a message that the French have captured four rebels. The German convoy replies that they will back up the French. Just then the Alligator Boys show up on motorcycles and in the back of a truck. They head off into the jungle when they see the Germans ahead of them. The Germans stop at the jungle edge but don't go in. The have their weapons at the ready. A shot hits one of the German soldiers and the men open up on the jungle with their automatic weapons. They shoot a lot of plants up, but did they hit anything?
The black female translator refers to all the firing as haphazard. This makes Sgt. Bogner very angry. He is very obviously frustrated with seeing the rebels get away with murder and rape without being punished. He says what he wants most, however, is that no one should refer to their fire as haphazard. Lt. Nicole tells him: "Sgt. Bogner. Stop that at once and get back in the vehicle." She whispers to Sgt. Malinck to get her disciplinary reports on all these German soldiers with them.
Back at base, Kosak introduces Nicole to Dietmar Wellinghof. Nicole then introduces Dietmar to Noelle Maskane, her interpreter. Dietmar has transferred the film and boosted the sound. He now shows Nicole the film again for July 24. Nicole asks Noelle what is the young black boy saying? She says he is saying the Lord's Prayer. Suddenly Noelle gets unnerved and leaves. Nicole chases after her, but Noelle will not tell her anything, not even why she became so unnerved.
Nicole now tells the Captain that Wenz made the film on July 24 and it cost him his life. Kosak gives her more grief and she asks him if he is threatening her? The Colonel comes in saying he wants to speak with the Lieutenant. And again she asks what happened on July 24? Where did Wenz go? The colonel says she will find out. She has his full assistance. Captain Kosak, outside in the rain, watches the interaction of the two officers.
Nicole talks with Lessja, saying that today Marco got all worked up about those Alligator Boys. Lessja asks her to come with her to see an Alligator Boy. The boy is in the morgue. He was only seven years old. The boy was bitten by a viper, but they stabilized him. They turned him over to the Congolese army and they tore out his IV bags. "The bottom line is: If one of those guys faces you with a machete, then run."
At the mess hall, Sgt. Malinck tells Nicole that the files show that Wenz was a model soldier. Bogner was a juvenile delinquent, but has been a good soldier.
Captain Kosar again undermines Nicole and her work by saying to all the men and women in the mess hall that the Lieutenant has a theory that one of the soldiers killed a local boy. Therefore, the soldiers must hand over all their recording devices: phones, laptops, etc. These will be inspected. The guys don't like that at all. Nicole tells her sergeant that she never gave such an order.
Nicole confronts the Captain and tells him to undo what he just did. He knows that she cannot analyze the digital device. The Captain just continues to be a total jerk (or is he involved in the killing himself?).
Nicole goes looking for the Colonel but he has gone to Bukavu and won't be back until tomorrow. She tells the Captain: "Captain, your actions have alerted suspects to the interrogations. They now can coordinate their stories." The Captain always has some worthless excuse.
Nicole cannot find the worker at the bar. She quit yesterday and no one seems to know where she is. So now Nicole interviews together Cpt. Kozak, Sgt Bogner and Cpl. Althaus. They say that on July 24 French troops stationed in Mbolo asked the Germans to oversee Operation Piroge in the village of Bata. Their mission was to capture Cpt. Crocodile. Bata was the headquarters of the Alligator Boys and the Captain. Captain Crocodile was not in the village. The soldiers say that no one was killed in their operation that day.
Now Nicole shows them the video of the murder of a young black fellow. The film was made by Wenz on the day of their mission. They ask if the video is a fake? She says they are going to go out to the village of Bata.
The soldiers show her the hut into which they went. Nicole has a photo caption of the video of the place and sees from this photo that this is where the video was filmed. The soldiers ask Nicole if she really thinks that they are a bunch of killers? Bogner says there is no corpse of this dead Alligator Boy.
Nicole interviews a local. She says that the Alligator Boys called her a traitor and shot her children. As the convoy pulls out the woman takes a machete and whacks away at the back of the jeep as she runs after it.
On the way back, the Captain asks Bogner and Althaus if they took the video? They don't say a word. The Captain bangs on the dashboard. The jeep comes up on a road block. All three vehicles turn off their lights. Red lazer dots go back and forth over the faces of the soldiers and the translator. They are definitely scared of being killed. All of a sudden some Dutch soldiers bang on the jeep hood and scare the hell out of the people inside. It was all a joke, but not for the victims of the joke.
Now Nicole wants to talk to the translator who was with the soldier on Operation Piroge. She finds out that this interpreter has vanished too.
Nicole goes to the bar and is taunted by the soldiers there who call her "the telephone man" and "cell phone strumpet". She has to get out of there. In her bunk she is very upset about all those nasty taunts.
The Colonel now tells her that they are sending another team out to take over the investigation. The reason for this is that her actions have been bad for morale. Nicole is angry and she expresses her doubts that the new investigative team will do anything except cover-up what happened. The Colonel now relieves her of her duty.
Now Nicole dresses in civilian clothes and goes outside the base with Noelle. Noelle drives on some rough back roads to the house of her female cousin. It was the cousin's voice that was heard on the tape. The cousin says that two weeks ago Marco gave her some money to interpret for them. In the village they apprehended two boys. Marco, Rene and Phillip apprehended them. They recognized the two as Alligator Boys. It was Renee who did the questioning of the boy Eugene. Renee shot the boy through his right eye. The other boy and the translator ran away. The soldiers tossed the corpse into the river.
Now the problem is that the cousin refuses to go on the record about what happened. Noelle now introduces Nicole to Patrice who was the other boy apprehended that day. Noelle asks Nicole if Patrice testifies will the other soldiers involved be sent home? Yes. Won't the soldiers shoot Patrice and Eleni for being snitches? Noelle says they could testify at the village school and not at the military camp. Okay. They will meet at the school.
Nicole marches into Captain Kosak's office and says she has a witness and he has to set up the meeting. He says he won't do it. So Nicole says she will do it herself. She goes to the Colonel. The Colonel really likes her and asks if when he is back in Germany if he can see her privately? Nicole ignores that and tells him she has a witness. Wenz was the shooter. Bogner and Althaus were also involved. Now she leaves.
Nicole goes to her bunk. In the bunk next to her Bogner and Lessja are having sex. Bogner sticks his head out and says hello. Nicole tells him straight to his face: "So you threw the corpse into the river." Bogner is shocked. She leaves and stands out in the rain for awhile.
The convoy moves out to the school house. Captain Kosak insists on going with them. German snipers have been placed in position and their cross hairs are set on Patrice and Noelle as they approach. Apparently, Captain Kosak is taking the position that that the two people are members of the Alligator Boys and they are here to arrest them. Nicole telephones Lonsky but he refuses to answer the phone.
Nicole runs over to the school house. She tells Noelle that the three of them have to leave together. Patrice gets scares and runs for it. He is shot down by the snipers. Nicole apologizes to Noelle and hugs her, but Noelle pushes her back and runs for it. Nicole chases after her, but she trips over a log and falls into the mud. Noelle is now on her own.
In the morning Nicole awakens and gets up from the mud. She has either broken her leg or sprained it, but it's so painful that she probably broke her leg. As she sits with her back to a tree, she sees Captain Crocodile coming toward her. Then she sees a little girl bringing her a gift. And now she imagines that a black woman is beating her with a club. Are these delusions or reality? Probably delusions. She grabs her pistol and starts firing recklessly.
Sgt. Malinck now comes out of nowhere, picks her up and throws her over his shoulders. He runs her out of the jungle.
Nicole gives her report to the Colonel. The Colonel gives the standard excuse used in virtually all military cover-ups. This is bad for the military, so it has to be hushed up. "If we look like losers, nobody benefits." (The French army did the same thing when they railroaded the Jewish military officer Alfred Dreyfus because of the army's anti-Semitism.)
The Colonel sends in his own cover-up story to the higher ups in the military.
Wow! This story is much like Courage Under Fire (1996). There a male officer investigates whether a woman soldier who has died in battle checks out enough so she could receive a very high medal for her actions under fire. In that story the officer uncovers the truth and the truth comes out. But the situation in this movie is much worse. The German officers and enlisted men are covering-up the truth and do everything they possibly can to prevent the investigator from finding out anything. So its Courage under Fire combined with a big cover-up.
What the officers don't realize is that the woman investigator Nicole can now go back to Germany, leave the army and write the whole story up, publish it and become a hero to some and a villain to the military people. They have made her a future millionaire. Then it will be a much bigger scandal because the officers went through with the cover-up instead of just court-martialing the two soldiers who helped the soldier who is thought to have committed suicide. Are the German military officers that stupid? I really don't think so. What about the old CYA? (cover your ass) I don't think they would be dumb enough to cover-up this whole matter when they have to know it can only turn out worse for them and their precious army when the truth finally comes out. The officers would go down in history as villains instead of army personnel trying to do the right thing for the Congo. Not only that -- they might spend some time in prison. Furthermore, a cover-up by the German military would look very, very bad for the reputation of the German armed forces, who at one time fought a war that killed 75 million people (WW II).
Anyway, even if the premise is probably wrong, it was a good film. I enjoyed the whole thing. Maria Simon did a very good job as the investigator Nicole. Jörg Schüttauf (as Captain Hauptmann Kosak) also did a good job. He really makes you hate this Captain Kosak.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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