Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Black Book (aka Zwartboek)

Paul Verhoeven's first Dutch film in quite a few years, Black Book is a World War II tale set in the Netherlands and "inspired by real events". It concerns a Resistance movement, one member of which is a young girl who has witnessed the massacre of her entire family, among a boatload of Jews, while they were all trying to escape the Nazi occupation.

Events conspire to throw her into a conversation with the head of the occupying force on a train journey, and soon after she is asked by her friends whether she would sleep with him -- you know, for the cause. She accepts the assignment, and what follows is a treacherous and dangerous game for all involved.

What follows is also a crazy action ride! The "true story" tag has come to mean very little when attached to movies. I think the Coen brothers may have started (or at least revived) this trend of elasticating the truth when they used a short news story as the catalyst for Fargo. Verhoeven goes one better, with a script that has taken years to finish. At every turn of the the celluloid page there is another incredible piece of derring-do or another implausible case of coincidence. But the film is none the worse for that!

And let's not forget that Verhoeven, while he has put out a few duds in his time, is actually great at what he does. And the colours and sets and cinematography were all great, and Carice van Houten and Sebastian Koch (also seen recently in The Lives of Others) shine in the leads.

You know what I say? At its heart, this is a genuine, old-fashioned wartime picture, so suspend your disbelief, put on your arthouse action movie hat, and enjoy. Black Book is pure fun, and we all need some of that from time to time. I give this movie 73 points out of 100.

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