Review by Sean Boelman
The sports drama genre is a good bet for a feel-good story, and WWII dramas are pretty consistently sobering. Marcus H. Rosenmüller’s biography The Keeper, telling the story of Bert Trautmann, leans towards the former and often neglects the latter, resulting in a film that is entertaining but sadly quite shallow.
The movie tells the story of Trautmann who went from being a German prisoner in an Allied prisoner-of-war camp to being a goalkeeper on one of Britain’s most prestigious football teams, facing prejudice and tragedy along the way. It’s a unique story, and one with which American viewers are likely unfamiliar, but Rosenmüller and Nicholas J. Schofield’s script is far too often conventional to be especially memorable.
As expected, the film preaches a message of compassion and empathy. And of course, treating others with respect is a wonderful thing to teach. But in a time in which there are so many other stories to be told, is there really a need for there to be a story that implies that we should “forgive and forget” the atrocities committed by the Nazis?
It is obvious that there is a lot more to this situation than the movie is willing to discuss, likely due to its apparent obligation to abide by crowd-pleasing narrative conventions. Had the film went deeper on the ethics of war, and the indoctrination of youth that was so prevalent in Nazi Germany, the movie’s message could have come across more authentically. Instead, it feels shallow and almost even misguided.
That isn’t to say that the film is without its merits. As a biopic, it’s pretty entertaining. It’s easy to get invested in the underdog story, and there is a surprisingly compelling romantic subplot. Much of the major conflict feels stuffed into the third act, which results in the movie feeling a bit rushed towards the end, but even at two hours long, it goes by rather quickly.
David Kross’s lead performance is pretty strong. He really shines in the second act, which is arguably the most emotionally nuanced portion of the film. As the story starts to head into more melodramatic territory towards the end, his delivery also begins to feel a lot lss natural, but he does a solid job for the most part.
The movie is also relatively well-made. Much like the script, Rosenmüller’s style does little to defy established cinematic rules and conventions. However, the way in which he films the sports scenes is quite effective and exciting. The results of the games are pretty predictable, but they are shot in a way as to be entertaining, and they succeed in that.
The Keeper isn’t essential viewing by any means — there have been plenty of movies like it, and other stories that could have conveyed this message more efficiently. Still, for those looking for an uplifting and easy watch, this fits that bill.
The Keeper is now streaming in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.