Dozens of movies have examined the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II. The German-language "Labyrinth of Lies" offers a different perspective, in large part because of when it is set.

Dozens of movies have examined the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II. The German-language "Labyrinth of Lies" offers a different perspective, in large part because of when it is set.

It is 1958 in Germany, 13 years after the war. Johann Radmann (Alexander Fehling) is an altruistic young prosecutor whose cases are primarily minor traffic offenses. Still, he lives according a motto left behind by his father who went missing in the war: "Always do the right thing."

Johann gets the chance to do just that when journalist Thomas Gnielka identifies a local teacher as a former camp guard at Auschwitz. While that word sends shivers now, the details of what went on there were largely unknown to Germans at the time, including Johann. "A German prosecutor not knowing what Auschwitz was?" says Thomas. "What a disgrace."

As Johann moves to make a case against the former guard, he finds himself up against a wall of silence, as an organized network of government officials seems intent on leaving these crimes in the past. "All you will achieve is opening old wounds that were just starting to heal," one superior says.

"Labyrinth" is fascinating in telling of a period in German history that American audiences aren't accustomed to hearing about. It was a nation trying to rebuild, but afraid to look at itself. "This country wants sugar-coating," one character laments. "It doesn't want the truth."

Johann's search for truth has the typical altruism of a courtroom drama, as he eventually seeks charges on virtually every German soldier who was at Auschwitz. His white whale is none other than Josef Mengele, the sadistic Nazi doctor who did genetic experiments on prisoners at the camp.

A fictionalized version of real events and people, "Labyrinth" works as both a legal thriller and a look at the moral landscape of Germany post-Nazism (though not post-Nazi). Even as Johann tries to force the nation to look in the mirror, he doesn't like what he finds. It works on a similar level (although much more obviously) as Michael Haneke's allusion to the rise of Nazism, "The White Ribbon."

"Labyrinth" does make one major misstep in a love story that feels both tacked on and out of place in the tone, but it's a solid film.

"Labyrinth of Lies"

Opens Friday

3 stars out of 4