Movie Review: The Book Thief
For someone who played a pirate in a (great but) somewhat silly movie, Geoffrey Rush truly shows his range in The Book Thief. Rush is the main ingredient in 75% of what makes this movie great; the other 25% is Sophie Nélisse and Emily Watson. These three make the movie shine with one of its main themes—humanity—by bringing life and warmth to all of their characters. Rush is especially fantastic in portraying a quirky and lovable father in an Oscar-worthy performance.
These three, though, are among the only three great things about this movie. For a film about a German family hiding a Jewish man, Max, in the midst of the Holocaust, it offers surprisingly little tension; the only real tension-packed scene is the one in the trailer. The rest of the movie is a tale of family and love, about losing people and gaining strength through solidarity and through words. While the messages are strong and ambitious, the movie is too long and largely ignores the character of Max, missing an opportunity to heighten the tension and the emotional impact of his heartbreaking storyline. One notable thing about this film is the twist it takes on a war movie—it takes unique viewpoints and as such is engaging, but it does lose the theme of the importance of words and writing within all of the other storylines. Go see this movie for Rush and great character acting, but don’t expect this World War II movie to be the next Schindler's List.
Stars: 3.5 out of 5
The Book Thief is the kind of movie that makes critics useless because you can probably already tell if you're going to like it. It's a movie about the holocaust narrated by Death about a feisty girl who loves books and the great people she meets along the way while enduring one of the world's greatest tragedies. If that sounds appealing to you, then it pretty much delivers, but if you find films about the Holocaust difficult to watch or you're very sensitive to being manipulated, it's probably not for you.
Wait, you're still reading? Aww, you're so sweet. Let's talk about death. The main element that distinguishes this movie from the hundreds and hundreds of other Holocaust movies is that it's narrated by the abstract concept of death, and while I'm told it works in the book, it didn't work at all in the film. There just wasn't enough time to flesh it out. All Death does in the movie is tell you how great Lisel, the protagonist, is--she's the best person ever, according to Death,
Take Death out of the equation and you have a solid film about Germany under Nazi occupation. It's beautifully shot, the acting is terrific all-around (especially Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, and Emily Watson) and there are some wonderful moments. But it's also too long, occasionally too cute, and too spread out to be as satisfying as it should be. On the plus side, watching a movie about the Holocaust is a great way to feel intelligent and socially responsible without actually doing anything.
Stars: 3 out of 5
How does it compare to other Holocaust movies?
Worse than: The Pianist
Better than: The Day the Clown Cried Probably. This one has never been released but it sounds like the worst idea in film since Big Mama's House 2