‘The Keeper’ Review: Accepting an Enemy as a Teammate

“The Keeper” is inspired by the true story of Bert Trautmann, a German who during World War II served as an ardent member of the Hitler Youth and later of the Luftwaffe. Then after the war he played soccer in England, as a goalkeeper for Manchester City. His presence on the team, which hired him in 1949, inspired protests, although a Manchester rabbi urged against holding the Nazis’ crimes against Trautmann individually, and fans eventually accepted him as a star player (particularly after he continued playing with what turned out to be a broken neck when Manchester City won the Football Association Cup in 1956).

That shift in sympathy must have been difficult, and it’s difficult for a movie to engineer. The film, a German-British coproduction directed by Marcus H. Rosenmüller, portrays its Bert (David Kross) as a decent man who is unfailingly kind to children, keeps his word and earns his fellow players’ respect.

While a prisoner of war in Lancashire, England, Bert gains leave to play for a local soccer team and to help out around a grocery shop. These outings allow him to woo Margaret (Freya Mavor), who eventually becomes his wife. (“I’d rather have danced with you than stood on the battlefield,” he tells her — smooth, although she’ll later find out he volunteered to fight.)

It’s contrary to the movie’s spirit to judge Bert, but the evasive treatment of his wartime experiences plays like a dodge: His past exists as a kind of amorphous trauma, reduced to shorthand in shamelessly placed flashbacks. Maybe the actual Trautmann was haunted by memories of a boy with a soccer ball he saw killed. But it’s likely that reality was less tidy.

The Keeper
Not rated. In English and German, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours. In theaters and on Kino Marquee. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.

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