Film Review – The Book Thief (2013)

Film Review The Book Thief

Title – The Book Thief (2013)

Director – Brian Percival (A Boy Called Dad)

Cast – Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer

Plot – Living through the horrors of Nazi run Germany in World War 2, young girl Liesel Meminger (Nelisse) finds hope in the written word along with the love of life from her friend Rudy (Liersch), her adoptive father Hans (Rush) and the family Jewish stowaway Max (Schnetzer). But in World War 2, Death is never far away.

“When life robs you, sometimes you have to rob it back”

Review by Eddie on 26/05/2014

Adapting Markus Zusak’s seriously popular book that has a ripe awards and box office subject matter – one would suspect that The Book Thief would have been a resounding success both commercially and critically but instead what occurred was a muted release with an equally low key response from fans and in the aftermath of its cinematic run The Book Thief will be lucky to live on in people’s minds thanks to a film treatment that inspires nothing within thanks to a pedestrian effort from almost all involved.

There is no question about The Book Thief being a very pretty motion picture with a nice visual design but the films lovely and well-designed settings only but harbor a story that sadly fails to translate the emotional investment to many readers had obviously found within the book, what is left is a cold and distant film that only ever shows brief glimpses of characters becoming something more for the viewers to invest in. Director Brian Percival’s tone is too subdued, even the frequent appearance of death as the tales narrator fails to liven up proceedings with a feeling of the filmmakers not gaging correctly how to use Death where the book succeeded in having him as a valuable contributor to proceedings. With a misstep behind the scenes the film does win points for unearthing a very strong acting talent in the form of young actress Sophie Nelisse.

Surrounded by acting stalwarts Geoffrey Rush and the miscast Emily Watson, 12 year old actress Nelisse does an exemplary job as wise beyond her years Liesel and she is well supported by other young thespians Nico Liersch as the enthusiastic and often quite charming Rudy and Ben Schnetzer as the film’s most unlucky participant Max (seriously be careful of those melting snowmen!). With these actors all doing a fine job it’s still hard to completely buy into these people completely with the films meandering pace and stale direction constantly reminding us that proceedings should be a lot more thrilling than they are, even sure-fire composer John Williams score can’t escape the feeling of being good yet not far from average.

The Book Thief should of made a much bigger mark than it did and while not being an in any way terrible movie is also a movie that fails to justify its existence as a two hour motion picture thanks to some underdeveloped characters, tame direction and a failure to maximise what could have been some very emotionally heavy yet rewarding experiences.

2 and a half dangerous melting snowmen out of 5

24 responses to “Film Review – The Book Thief (2013)

    • Hi Maria, was a very strange experience this one. You get the feeling it was walking the line between becoming something really grand or something almost completely mundane. Nothing memorable within it to suggest you need to track it down with so many other flicks out at the minute.

      • No need to be sorry! It has a very high user rating on IMDB so I would suggest your family isn’t alone by any stretch of the imagination. It’s strange how a disconnect seems to be there for this film in regards to critical and general audience reaction.

      • You’re right- it certainly isn’t “Frozen” or “Godzilla”- but it was a very touching and moving movie- 🙂

  1. I’m not really surprised this movie failed. Despite the hype, the book was very, very ordinary and from your review it sounds like the film fails for the same reasons – not terribly engaging and Death is little more than a spectator, no different from any other narrator.

    • Interesting to hear you didn’t find the book much chop mate? A lot of people seemed to really get into it but that didn’t translate to box office gold for this one.

    • Interesting – I found the book very engaging to begin with, a very original concept. But as I read on it felt needlessly long and the ending was a bit tame. So for me the novel’s main “hook” was the different perspective and maybe that’s not enough to carry a film to greatness.

  2. Hi Eddie! Ah I see, say no more.. 🙂
    I’m kind of looking forward to The Two Faces of January, hope you get to see it when it’s available there, I’d love to hear what you think!

  3. I loved the book and also managed to find a lot to enjoy in the film. I think if you could separate the two from each other and accept that the book was too big for the film to ever match it and let that go, it was really enjoyable.

    • Great to hear your thoughts Abbi, I just couldn’t really find anything to love here but I did appreciate some of the performances but feel there was a much better film to be made here.

  4. It possibly would have been better, had the movie been rated-R or so. But instead, it’s a kids movie that doesn’t really do much justice to its story or its source material. Good review Eddie.

  5. You know, I actually liked this one. Granted, it’s not a masterpiece, but it’s well made, good looking, if not a little *too* good looking. Not rough enough around the edges, but there were some very well restrained performances, and some really touching moments. Although, the voiceover was straight out of a 1930s film, it was somewhat bizzare.

  6. I saw the movie this weekend with my sister, right before your review came out. Neither of us had read the book and we both enjoyed the film. It gave me something to think about.

  7. It felt like you were always waiting for something to happen, but then the movie ended. The worst movie I watched last week by far. Good on you guys for giving it 2 snowmen.

  8. Pingback: Film Review – Backtrack (2015) | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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