This thriller opens in 1963 with a brief prologue where we see Israeli intelligence officers discussing an Egyptian plan to launch a biochemical attack on Israel; the only thing the Egyptians require is a missile component being made in West Germany. The action then moves to West Germany where Peter Miller, a freelance reporter with an eye for a story, follows an ambulance only to discover it was just going to an old man who had committed suicide. The next day the investigating police officer gives Peter the old man’s dairy thinking it might make a human interest story… it does far more than that though; it tells of how he had survived Riga concentration camp where he’d seen his wife killed at the orders of camp commandant Eduard Roschmann, the dairy goes on to allege that Roschmann is still alive having been given a new identity by an organisation known as ODESSA. Having read the dairy Miller is determined to find Roschmann and expose ODESSA; it soon becomes clear it reaches deep into the West German state and it isn’t long before an attempt is made on his life. With few clues in Germany he heads to Vienna to see Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal; not long after that he is approached by Israeli intelligence; they have a plan to send him undercover into ODESSA; a dangerous task where exposure could mean death but success could destroy ODESSA.
Most thrillers seem to be packed with action however this one keeps things tense with a feeling of almost constant danger; this means when the few action scenes do come they feel more intense. Jon Voight does a fine job as protagonist Peter Miller; it was good to have a thriller about Nazis where the hero is German; even if he isn’t played by one! Maximilian Schell only has a fairly small role as Roschmann but he makes the character quite chilling due to the way he first denies having anything to do with the slaughter in Riga, then making out that it was nothing important then finally boasting of the greatness of the SS. The story is well told and kept me gripped from the moment we learnt the contents of the old man’s dairy… just the time Miller got gripped by the story too! If there is a flaw it was the suddenness of the end and the way he managed to find Roschmann alone in a castle; still the story demanded that they be alone together for their final talk so that improbability can be forgiven. Overall this is definitely worth watching if you like your thrillers tense and don’t demand nonstop action and special effects.