Picks and Pans Review: Fatherland

updated 11/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

HBO (Sat, Nov. 26, 8p.m. ET)

A-

Based on author Robert Harris's fanciful thriller, this film presupposes a world where Nazi Germany triumphed in World War II. The year is 1964, and Adolf Hitler is about to cap his 75th-birthday celebration in Berlin by signing a historic alliance with the United States. Our President is Kennedy, but it's Joe Kennedy Sr., the aging family patriarch.

Independently of each other, an SS detective (Rutger Hauer) and a visiting American journalist (Miranda Richardson, in a less-than-convincing performance) grab strands of a deadly conspiracy. Their tenacity threatens to blow the lid off Germania's most closely guarded secret: the horror of the Holocaust. (Everyone still believes the propaganda that the Jews were sent to resettlement camps in Eastern Europe.) The Gestapo is determined to silence the pair before they can ruin the Hitler-Kennedy summit.

Despite a weak ending, this is a spooky suspense film, particularly adept at imagining life within a thriving totalitarian state. Michael Kitchen and John Woodvine costar.

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