Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Netflix Mail Day Movie Review: "The Book Thief" (2013)

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Movie"The Book Thief"
Director: Brian Percival
Year: 2013
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes

In Germany, a young orphan named Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse) is adopted by a poor couple hoping to gain government assistance. Her new Papa, Hans (GeoffreyRush), is a kind, lighthearted man, and her new Mama, Rosa (Emily Watson), is much more stern and serious. She is befriended by a young boy named Rudy (Nico Liersch), who is enamored with her. Liesel is embarrassed at her new school when it is discovered that she can't read or write, so Hans helps Liesel learn to read and she falls in love with books. Unfortunately, the Nazis are in power, and are banning and burning books left and right. The Nazis are also rounding up all the Jews in the area. Hans and Rosa take in a young Jew named Max (Ben Scnetzer), who is a family friend, and hide him in their basement. Max and Liesel become friends over their shared passion for books. When Max falls ill, in order to keep his spirits up, Liesel reads him books that she has stolen from the Burgermeister's house, who has a vast library of banned books. 

There was a lot of Oscar talk about this film before it was released, but we didn't really understand why after watching it. Sure, it's a fine enough Holocaust movie, but it seems like one of those movies filmmakers thought was going to be much more powerful and wonderful than it really was. Movies about Nazis, WWII and the Holocaust are typically ones that feel very baity towards award shows, but in the end, this movie really doesn't do anything spectacular to warrant such recognition. All of the acting is quite good, though, especially that of Sophie Nélisse. Wow, this kid can act! She brings the character of Liesel to life, but only some of the time. She is quite a compelling little girl, and her struggles are palpable through Nélisse's performance. It will be interesting to see where Nélisse goes after this role and we hope to see more from her in the future. Established actors Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson are also great with what they are given as they play her "new" Mama and Papa. Rush is the gentler dreamer of the two and Watson is the stern and overbearing one, yet each compliment one another so well as Sophie's new parents. Beyond the acting, though, this movie could be classified as a bit of a bore.

Unfortunately, overall, this film adaptation from the much loved novel as a whole feels like it is missing something. I cannot say what it is since I have never read it, but most movies about World War II have a lot of suspense to them. This movie didn't really have a whole lot of that. It feels like a lot more should have happened and should have been more exciting, but in the end, it was a bit underwhelming compared to everything critics said about the book. Perhaps filmmakers played it safe in order for it to get a PG-13 rating? One of the best aspects of this film is how it is narrated by Death, as if it were a character. That is a creepy way to go about this movie, but it completely worked and we loved the narration throughout. This element almost gives the entire movie a bit of a fantastical feel to it; blurring the lines between reality and fantasy during a time when there wasn't much point to living and we wish more movies used Death as a character more often. The ending was quite sad, though, so be prepared to have the feels.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 46%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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