SOPHIE SCHOLL — THE LAST DAYS — *** — Julia Jentsch, Alexander Held, Fabian Hinrichs; in German, with English subtitles; not rated, probable PG-13 (profanity, violence, brief drugs).

The Oscar-nominated film "Sophie Scholl — The Last Days" makes the simple act of distributing fliers seem like the ultimate in espionage.

An early scene in this German dramatic thriller shows the title character and someone else trying to distribute revolutionary leaflets on a university campus, and it's unbelievably tense and suspenseful.

The rest of the film might not be as gripping as that particular sequence, but the film's notions about the importance of free speech and the proliferation of ideas are obviously important — it's a message that needs to be spread in our own uncertain times.

Based on recently discovered documents and court transcripts, the film examines the final days of Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch), a member of the subversive White Rose organization, which operated in the heart of Nazi Germany during World War II. Sophie and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) were captured as they were trying to leave the Munich University campus after leaving anti-Nazi fliers near several classrooms.

In this dramatic re-enactment of those events, the two siblings are taken immediately to Gestapo headquarters, where Sophie is interrogated and accused of high treason. But despite the best efforts of her interrogator (Alexander Held), Sophie remains defiant.

Thanks to those latter, rather lengthy scenes, the movie gets a little too talky. But there are quieter scenes that are effective, including those that examine the friendship of Sophie and her fellow prisoner Else (Johanna Gastdorf).

As for Claire Danes lookalike Jentsch ("Downfall," "The Edukators"), her believable performance as the idealistic Sophie is what makes the film compelling. (Christina Ricci is also tackling the role in an upcoming American production titled "The White Rose.")

"Sophie Scholl — The Last Days" is not rated but would probably receive a PG-13 for some scattered profanity (mostly religiously based), overheard violence (wartime, as well as executions) and some brief drug content (possession of drug paraphernalia). Running time: 117 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com