what i think he missed is that the film was meant to dramatise how average everyday people, not crusaders, respond when the systems of power they have little or no control over begin to operate in ways they know are wrong and oppressive. especially what artists and art-lovers, pacifists to boot, who simply want to live and enjoy life, do when faced with a situation where force is dominant, force used by those who are working toward evil ends. does a person succumb to the pressure to belong to the dominant group, like thomas? or just go along, like frau müller? does a person give up in the face of seemingly futile resistance, but still refuse to be corrupted, and commit suicide, like arvid? or does a person stand up and resist, even if it's unlikely to accomplish anything, like peter?
and the film also confronted the question of human evil. how can anyone who has a soul that recognizes and appreciates the pure joie de vivre of swing music act as a force of evil? yet thomas does.
sure, the film's not as gritty as it could have been and the compromises ebert mentions dilute the focus, but it's far better than his review suggests. no, it's not schindler's list, not the story of a great hero who saved many lives; it's the story of some ordinary people in an extraordinary situation and that's important too.