Five Empty Cartridges

The communists are the heroes of this 1960 East German war film. During the Spanish civil war, the leader of a communist brigade captures a key fascist army chart and entrusts it to five of his men before he dies; concealing its fragments in five empty shells, they cross through enemy territory to deliver the chart to their headquarters. Director Frank Beyer creates some strong imagery—the men gasp for water amid dry hills, unable to reach the streams below them or to stop for more than an instant because of enemy fire—but the film has no consistent style, and parts of it are more effective than the whole. With Armin Mueller-Stahl, Erwin Geschonneck, and Ulrich Thein.

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