Review: THE BOOK THIEF (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 10 February 2014

Review: THE BOOK THIEF (2013)

Review: THE BOOK THIEF (2013)
A handsomely produced but bland adaptation of Markus Zusak's World War II bestselling novel.

First published in 2005, Australian author Markus Zusak's World War II-set drama The Book Thief was a young-adult bestselling novel that went on to win numerous awards. With such accolades, the movie adaptation was inevitable. However, what could have been a prestige project set to be one of award-worthy (read: Oscar) contenders turns out to be a huge disappointment after all.


Set during the Nazi-occupied Germany in 1938, the movie revolves around a young girl named Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nelisse) who arrives in a small German town to meet her new stepparents, Rosa (Emily Watson) and Hans (Geoffrey Rush). Being an illiterate person, Liesel is often bullied by her fellow classmates at school but soon begins taking reading lessons from the kindly Hans. At the same time, she also befriends a neighbourhood boy named Rudy (Nico Liersch). Then one day, a teenage Jew named Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer), shows up at their home and needs to hide from the authorities. Apparently, Max is the son of a Jewish comrade who used to save Hans' life during World War I. Now returning as a favour, Hans and his family tries their best to nurse him back to health. Soon Liesel begins to befriend with Max, as both of them share a common interest in literature.

The production design of the Nazi-occupied Germany setting, as well as Florian Ballhaus' elegant cinematography and John Williams' appropriately sombre score, are all impressive.

Most of the actors here are decent enough, with Geoffrey Rush's kind-hearted Hans and Emily Watson's sulky but caring Rosa worth a special mention here.
For a movie like this, I would have expected a memorable moment. Unfortunately, I couldn't find one at all.
It's a pity that Brian Percival's direction is flat and uninspired, while Michael Petroni's adapted screenplay is enormously lacklustre. Problem is, they fail to evoke the necessary emotional impact needed for this kind of movie to be successful. Instead, everything here feels bland and tedious. Not to mention, at the running time of 2 hours plus, it does feel long to sit through.

As the title character, Sophie Nelisse is the biggest disappointment of them all. Apart from her endearing look, her acting is just too stiff to make her an exceptional protagonist worth watching for.

Overall, THE BOOK THIEF is a misfire. And frankly, I almost fall asleep when I watched this movie in the cinema.

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