East Germany, 1979. After initially failing to flee from the East to the West in a self-built hot-air balloon, two families struggle to make a second attempt, while the East German State Police are chasing them.
In the summer of 1979, in Thüringen, in East Germany, two families put together a crazy plan. They are desperate to leave the DDR for the 'West' and plan to flee in a homemade hot air balloon. After sewing and tinkering for weeks, the amateurs make their first attempt. Meters from the West German border, their balloon suffers from the rain and crash lands. Luckily, they manage to avoid being caught by the police. However, the wreckage from their escape attempt is found and that triggers a desperate manhunt. The tension rises as the families determine to try again, and a race against time ensues. On the one hand, the authorities, desperate to track down the traitors, become aware that a second attempt is being planned. On the other, the would-be escapees, conscious of the search drawing ever nearer, need to build a more robust, weatherproof balloon - and avoid leaving too many clues.
This film depicts the construction and launching of two improvised hot-air balloons. There were actually three. The first was an utter failure, because they had utilized a cotton-based fabric that was porous and leaked air massively. See more »
The closing credits show multiple photos of the real-life subjects of the film: including hospital photos of Wetzel (whose leg was broken on impact) and East German crime scene photos of the first failed balloon attempt. See more »
Balloon is a solid and unpretentious movie built around a cat-and-mouse game between infamous Stasi and two families trying to escape East Germany in a home-made hot air balloon. If it weren't based on a true story it would be difficult to believe how much risk some people would be willing to take with the life of their families while their day to day lives weren't really threatened by the system as long as they played along. However, once their initial attempt for escape fails, they realized they were being chased by Stasi and became desperate to flee the country no matter how.
Balloon has an engaging story, good direction, decent acting performance and above-the-average entertainment value. The recreation of 70's East Germany is well-done and convincing. After the first failing attempt, the pace of the movie indeed sags a bit, especially with the Berlin scenes, but it quickly picks up with the tension and drama kept tight till the end. It's worth watching and highly recommended.
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