The Book Thief: Movie Review

"The Book Thief" no doubt provides gut-wrenching performances from its cast and a look onto the other side of the coin when it comes to World War II and in particular, life in Nazi Germany. Although brilliantly acted and emotion-filled, the film lags behind when it comes to its plot. Worse, and to put it bluntly, the film plays it safe when it comes to tackling the darker issues of its source material. What we end up getting is more of a peek rather than a full unadulterated look into this tale of a young girl and her struggles to conform to an oppressive society.

Set during World War II in Germany in January of 1939, 9-year old Liesel (Sophie Nélisse) is a foster girl living outside of Munich brought to a community where she discovers her ultimate passion – books. Liesel is brought to her new parents, Hans (Geoffrey Rush)and Rosa Hubermann (Emily Watson) while her younger brother Werner dies along the way. In the cemetery where her brother is buried, a book entitled “The Grave Digger’s Handbook” found its way to Liesel’s hands, the first of her collection, from which she’d eventually become “The Book Thief”.

"The Book Thief" has its merits and there is a lot to rave about it. Perhaps, the best thing about this film is the acting. Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson and even newcomer Sophie Nélisse surprised us and moved us with their authentic portrayals. So much so that the film was effective in being a drama. We felt every joy, every pain and even every struggle as the family tries to hide a Jew from the authorities. Unfortunately, minus the noteworthy performances from its cast, "The Book Thief" falters with an underplayed and unbalanced plot. First, the plot itself was rather disorganized. At times, the film seems to jump from one dilemma to another without developing each one fully. In fact, the plot is so disorganized that the film's title translates to a very little portion in the film. Additionally, the film felt too much like a fairy tale. Yes, it shows life in Nazi Germany and how folks are actually as normal as anyone from the world but never did it show the true horror and atrocities that happened. It might tackle the persecution of Jews or the horrors of war but the film browses through these themes most of the time. Overall, "The Book Thief" as a drama works but as a war film not much so.

Rating: 4 reels

Why you should watch it:
- superb acting brings out every drama in every scene that demanded it

Why you shouldn't watch it:
- the plot was disorganized and plays it safe when it comes to the darker issues the film wanted to tackle

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