SOPHIE NELISSE GEORFFREY RUSH EMILY WATSON BEN SCHNETZER
THE BOOK THIEF
The Book Thief takes us back to the Nazis and World War II in search of awards. Based on the book of the same name, The Book Thief won’t be turning up any awards this season. With more endings than The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, this subdued, kid friendly story plays everything painfully by the numbers. The pacing issues are so bad that it nearly drowns out the really wonderful performances by Oscar favorites Geoffrey Rush (Elizabeth, Shine) and Emily Watson (Gosford Park, War Horse). The film begins with horrible, wispy clouds and the single worst narration of any film I have ever watched. Death is the narrator, interjecting the worst dialogue throughout the film.
Given up by her mother, who was a communist, Liesel (Nelisse) comes to live with new parents Hans (Rush) and Rosa (Watson), who balance each other out with opposite temperaments. Unable to read, Hans spends time with the curious girl who becomes fascinated with words and stories that allow her to travel outside the fear and uncertainty around her. Max (Schnetzer), the son of an old friend who saved Hans life, comes to them for help in hiding. Liesel spends much of her time outside of school with Max, reading with him and describing all the outdoor sounds and smells that he cannot enjoy.
There is nothing in the film that really explores the horrors of the era. The Book Thief seems desperate to appeal to school teachers needing a new film for movie day in history class. The problems with pacing combined with everything being sugar coated make this nearly impossible to sit through for adults. Rush and the humor found in Watson’s character are the only elements I found worth staying awake for. Our lead actress is beautiful and bright eyed like any other, but she failed to keep my attention.
There is one scene where dead bodies are pulled from a house that was bombed, yet there's no blood anywhere; just white makeup and still movements signify they are dead, combined with some horribly written narration about cupping their souls in Death’s hand. I even found the title bothersome and misleading, as the girl only really takes a couple of books from a house she has been given prior access to. If you compare The Book Thief to Sarah’s Key, which explored something completely different in the scenario of the war, or The Reader, it fails to offer up anything specifically unique.
Final Thought – The only thing stolen here is your time.
By: Dustin Chase