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Movie Review: Black Book

July 25th, 2008

black-book-movie.jpgAlthough not my favorite genre, this movie review of the Black Book by Nicholas Cockayne paints an interesting portrayal of a WWII spy thriller that takes us back to what is probably the darkest period of the 20th century. Carice van Houten and Thom Hoffman play the starring roles while Paul Verhoeven directs.


While period spy thrillers usually have a limited appeal to the mainstream audience, Black Book proved such a refreshing change from all the tired clich├ęs of the genre that this film totally blew all audience expectations out of the water.

Director Paul Verhoeven does a terrific and often unrelenting job keeping the audience immersed in the film, whether it be in the pomp and splendour of the Nazi party or in the brutal murder of Jews fleeing for the border, Verhoeven pulls no punches and offers the audience no opportunity to distance themselves comfortably from all that goes happens on screen. From the horrific injuries of someone being shot in the head to the heroine giving herself sexually to the head of the Gestapo in the name of the Resistance, the audience is right there with the characters, totally involved in it all. This is probably the film’s main achievement as although it offers a stylish portrayal of the World War Two resistance spy thriller, it is hardly ground breaking within this tradition. Where it diverges from similar films of the past is in its willingness to show the more shocking aspects of the story, such as the heroine being showered in feces, dying her pubic hair, and much full frontal nudity, that films in the past have been content to imply rather than explicitly depict.

Normally with a film 145 minutes in length, by the end of the second hour the audience would be hoping for the ending, but Black Book holds the attention riveted throughout, and leaves the audience still wanting more as they leave the cinema.

This is never a comfortable or easy watch, but the cast throw themselves wholeheartedly into their roles, with Carice van Houten as Rachel and Thom Hoffman as Hans Akkermans in particular shining in a more than able cast. Carice deserves a special mention as the captivating Rachel/Ellis, her performance surely launching her into more big mainstream films in the future.

This film is highly recommended for fans of the genre, and an engaging watch for those that aren’t.



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