Friday, December 07, 2007

Black Book

I thought this was a very entertaining movie. It's kind of an old-fashioned WWII espionage thriller, put together like a good Alistair MacLean novel translated to film, but with one major difference: the main character is a woman, played with intelligence and spirit by Carice van Houten. Wow. She's terrific.

Van Houten plays a Dutch Jew, a singer who's hiding out from the Nazis. When her hiding place is destroyed, she has to find other ways to survive. The story takes off at a run and doesn't let up again, not even at the end. There are betrayals galore, there's twist after twist, there's romance, there's sex (okay, that's another major difference from a MacLean novel), there's violence, there's degradation.

There's even a bit of moral ambiguity as director Paul ver Hoeven makes the Nazis almost human. The worst of the villians plays a mean piano, whistles a nice tune, and even sings a little tenor harmony. But he's a monster all the same. Not so the SS officer played by Sebastian Koch. He's hardly a monster at all.

I missed this one in the theater, but it's way better than the last batch of big-budget Hollywood thrillers I've seen. Check it out.

9 comments:

Victor Gischler said...

Why is it called "Black Book"?

VG

Gerard said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Dirty, filthy, rotten Nazis.

Todd Mason said...

Verhoeven usually directs extremely nasty-spirited films (ranging at least from SPETTERS through SHOWGILRS and BASIC INSTICT through STARSHIP TROOPERS and HOLLOW MAN), usually (as with all these examples) with his smirk shoved right up in the audience's faces. Not so with this one? It was well-reviewed, but I was skittish, given every other PV film I'd seen, even while appreciating Some of his snark.

Vince said...

Best movie I saw in a theater this year. Hands down.

Bill Crider said...

Todd, you can trust Vince.

Bill Crider said...

To get to Victor's question way up top, there's a little black book in the plot.

Fred Blosser said...

The first 15 minutes could have been trimmed, and I wasn't sure there was a point to the "20 years later" opening that frames the story as a long flashback, but regardless, I also liked it a lot. Very much like a Ken Follett or Jack Higgins-type WWII thriller. Verhoerven has a knack for casting gorgeous actresses who don't mind taking off their clothes, and Clarice certainly continues the tradition.

The "Black Book" is a McGuffin that drives the plot in the second half of the movie. It's a list of double agents or Nazi sympathizers -- I forget exactly which. I was too busy looking at Clarice.

Juri said...

Some of his films are, to my mind, extremely bad, such as SHOWGIRLS and HOLLOW MAN (and I don't think BASIC INSTINCT was good, and I have at times wondered about his cult status among. Haven't seen this one, though.

Juri said...

Umm... "among my generation" (meaning guys from 30 up).