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Judgment in Berlin
Judgment in Berlin
Actors: Sean Penn, Martin Sheen
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
PG     2006     1hr 36min

Studio: Peace Arch Home Entertain Release Date: 10/24/2006 Run time: 96 minutes Rating: Pg

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Movie Details

Actors: Sean Penn, Martin Sheen
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
Studio: Trinity Home Ent
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 10/24/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 36min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 1
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English
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Movie Reviews

A remarkable story that really happened
A reader | New York City | 11/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Based on a book with the same title, this film tells an unusual story that really happened.

Until 1991 Berlin was formally under 4-power Allied military occupation. In the later years of the Cold War no one really paid much attention to that: The Soviet Zone, East Berlin, was the capital of the German Democratic Republic. West Berlin was essentially a part of West Germany with the French, British and U.S. zones combined as single municipality.

Then a hijacked airliner--taken over by nice people fleeing Communist subjugation--landed at Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin.

Nice hijackers are still hijackers and the commies demanded their return. Suddenly West Berlin was an allied military zone again. Neither the West German nor the West Berlin governments would touch the issue. The Germans reminded all that the occupation was technically still in effect. Since Tempelhof was in the U.S. Zone, it was for the United States to handle the case.

And that is what this movie is about. The U.S. set up a unique court in the American Zone of Allied Occupied Berlin. The judge--played by Martin Sheen--was a federal judge from New Jersey. The fascinating part of the story is how remarkably complex it was to set up that court and adjudicate the case.

The made-for-television Judgement in Berlin was filmed where it happened. It is no work of art but the story is an extraordinary and true legal tale.

Relevant Today
Jennifer Van Bergen | Gainesville, Florida | 07/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)


I just found a copy of "Judgment in Berlin" (1988), which stars Martin Sheen, Sean Penn, and Carl Lumbly (Syney Bristow's partner in the TV-series "Alias"), among others. It's an excellent story, co-written and directed by Leo Penn (Sean's father).

Synopsis: Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, an East German man hijacks a plane bound for East Berlin and diverts it to West Berlin. Because he did not merely escape but committed hijacking, which the US government claims is "terrorism," he must stand trial in West Berlin in a specially-constituted American court.

The government argues, among other things, that constitutional rights do not apply since the court is an "occupation court" which is a tool of the Department of State in its exercise of foreign policy, not an independent "Article 2" federal court.

((DON'T READ THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE END!)) ***The judge disagrees and in the end refuses to allow the defendant to be put into the hands of the government at all since he says he believes them when they say they won't respect his rights.***

Many of the legal arguments and aspects in the film mirror those being used today in US detentions and prosecutions both in the US and overseas. (For example, "unlawful enemy combatants" held in the US in military brigs, Guantanamo detainees, and several cases of American citizens held by the US and being prosecuted in Iraq.)

In other words, the film is accurate in its legal and political framework. The film, moreover, raises the same moral questions often NOT being raised or considered now in cases analogous to the one in the movie. The film is an excellent teaching tool about these issues.

Not an exciting action film, just a straightforward story, it is nonetheless a good script, good directing, and good acting. Sheen plays the judge quite well. Penn does a good job playing a young German who testifies for the defense (as someone who lived in Austria as a child, I thought his accent was pretty good). Young Lumbly does equally well as a prosecutor. Others in the cast, all fine.

Jennifer Van Bergen, J.D. Author of: "The Twilight of Democracy: The Bush Plan for America" (Common Courage Press, 2004), and other books and articles on issues of law and human rights."