Release Date: April 4th, 2007 by Sony Pictures Classics.
The Cast: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, Waldemar Kobus, Derek de Lint, Christian Berkel, Dolf de Vries, Peter Blok, Michiel Huisman, Ronald Armbrust, Frank Lammers, Matthias Schoenaerts. Directed by Paul Verhoeven.
In Dutch, German and Hebrew with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: At the end of WWII, Rachel (van Houten), a Dutch Jewish woman, hides from the Nazis by joining the Dutch Resistance incognito and seduces a German officer, Ludwig Müntze (Koch).
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Black Book boasts a radiant performance by the sexy Carice van Houten and a riveting plot. The film opens in 1956 as Rachel, a school teacher in Israel and meets an old friend. This reunion triggers memories from her experiences in World War II which serves as the rest of the plot. In 1944, Rachel hides from the Nazis in a Holland farmhouse, but her safety net disappears when the Germans bomb the farmhouse. She survives the bombing as well as an ambush on a small boat she rides on. Soon enough, she changes her name to Ellis, dies her hair—everywhere—blonde, and works at a food plant. This is the point when the plot becomes a bit convoluted. Communist workers at the plant convince her to go on an undercover mission to seduce German officer Ludwig Müntze, played by Sebastian Koch who can also be found as the playwright in the superb film The Lives of Others. Co-writer/director Paul Verhoeven includes some plot twists and plenty of riveting action scenes to increase the intensity of the drama. Unfortunately, he doesn’t give the same attention to the characters, none of whom truly come to life. When the story flashes forward to 1956 where it began, it feels rather contrived. Also, there’s excessive nudity which doesn’t seem to belong here. This isn’t surprising coming from the same director of Starship Troopers, Hollow Man, Robocop and Showgirls. Who would have thought that he could direct a war thriller? At least he has the guts to do that. A fine cast of very skilled actors, as well as the impressive set and costume design and cinematography, help to make Black Book overcome its deficiency in character development, but at a running time of 2 hours and 24 minutes, it somewhat overstays its welcome.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: Unfortunately, none.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: Thin character development, slightly convoluted and contrived.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 3
IN A NUTSHELL: A stellar cast with a radiant Carice van Houten, impressive production values and an intense plot slightly compensate for some contrived and convoluted scenes and weak character development
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: DVD
The "B" Menu