EXCLUSIVE: StudioCanal has acquired the Stephen Harding World War II nonfiction book The Last Battle: When U.S. And German Soldiers Joined Forces In The Waning Hours Of World War II In Europe. The Picture Company’s Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman will produce the feature thriller about a daring attempt by a small band of American soldiers to liberate French prisoners being held at a castle in the Austrian Alps.

The action takes place in the weeks after Hitler’s suicide but before the German surrender, and American Capt. Jack Lee must find a way to free prisoners they learn have been sentenced to be killed by the Nazi soldiers to prevent them from providing damning war crimes testimony. About 200 hardened Waffen SS troops are right behind the Americans, with orders to murder the prisoners, and the badly outnumbered Americans must turn to the German castle guards who just surrendered to them, to help move the French POWs to safety. The book was published by Da Capo Press in 2013.

Producing with Rona and Heineman is Bryce Zabel, who wrote a script that is part of this package. Jackie Zabel is executive producer. Rona and Heineman are developing The Last Battle as part of The Picture Co’s deal to produce up to three films per year for StudioCanal. The next picture in production for them will be the Liam Neeson suspense thriller The Commuter.

Bryce Zabel actually did the research and encouraged Harding to write the book on which the movie project is based. The Zabels and their Stellar Productions recently partnered with Gotham/Principal on Captured, about the Betty and Barney Hill UFO abduction from 1961. Ron Halpern and Shana Eddy will oversee for StudioCanal. The deal was brokered by manager Jason Leibovitch, and attorneys Morse Taylor and Leigh Brecheen on behalf of Stellar.