The Book Thief: Blu Ray Review
Released by 20th Century Fox Home Ent
Based on the book by Australian author, Markus Zusak, the movie version of The Book Thief aims to tug at the heartstrings.
It's the story of Liesel (a wonderful first time turn from Sophie Nelisse, who's rightfully getting awards), a young girl pushed onto a foster family in pre-war time Germany in the 1930s. There's the cold-hearted Rosa (Watson) and the more kindly, music loving and nurturing Hans (Rush). As the road to war escalates, the initially illiterate Liesel finds herself growing up in a world she understands less but discovering a love for literature.
When a young Jew, Max, comes to shelter with Rosa and Hans, the harsh realities of war and the fear of the Nazis becomes a reality for the family - and their lives will never be the same again.
The Book Thief is an emotionally flat piece, despite the deliberately emotive ideas and the potential for manipulation. Yet, despite Nelisse's beautifully fragile yet confident tone, it never fires on any real level, leaving you lamenting how empty the pay off is as the horror hits home.
It's a shame because the attention to period detail is impressive and initially oppressive, but the maudlin tones of the film never really lift or give you the push to connect and care about these characters as childhood innocence and naivete are shattered asunder.
The slow, solemn tone gives way to a feeling that The Book Thief is way too over-long and the narrative twists can be seen a mile off - the step-mother isn't actually a cruel harpie? While the friendship between Liesel and the boy next door Rudy (Liersch) is solid enough, the emotional pay off as their relationship reaches its tragedy is curiously lacking; and it's a shame. Rush delivers a strong performance and injects the war time mope with some much needed warmth and earnestness and Roger Allam's deliciously liquid tones work well as the narrator Death.
All in all The Book Thief delivers a competently told tale, but fails to find the emotion needed to turn you into a blubbering wreck as the tragedy kicks in.