Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Black Book Review

Frankly I think Paul Verhoeven is a hack. He is the auteur of such artistic masterpieces as Showgirls, Starship Troopers, RoboCop, Hollow Man and Total Recall; some guilty pleasures certainly but nothing that would make you think he is capable of taking on such an 'epic' story as here. Playing out much like a German version of Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, Black Book follows a young Jewish woman who infiltrates the Nazi party and helps a resistance effort and is torn between her feelings for the resistance and the man she is supposed to manipulate. The woman, Carice van Houten, is absolutely wonderful. Van Houten brings a sort of grace and believability to a role that has to contend with a number of Verhoeven's perverse and manipulative trappings (at one point she literally has a vat of excrement dumped on her nude body). Sebastian Koch, also wonderful in last year's Lives of Others, gives a nice turn as the SS officer that van Houten aims to spy on. I really wish a better director had taken on this material, it's an interesting story (moreso than Lust, Caution) and deserves a more mature and respectful treatment. Surprisingly, considering his action movie pedigree, Verhoeven's battle scenes here are choppy, unbelievable and somewhat hammy. This could have been a really great film with a better mind behind it; despite the problems I still liked it more than Lee's intolerably overlong and ponderous Lust, Caution.

Overall Score: 6/10

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