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REVIEW: The Book Thief

The Book Thief (2013) dir. Brian Percival (20th Century Fox)

The Book Thief (2013)
dir. Brian Percival
(20th Century Fox)

Brian Percival’s big screen adaptation of Markus Zusak’s novel of the same name, tells the story of a German teen Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse) as she navigates life in Germany during World War II. Observed by Death (Roger Allam), who narrates Liesel’s journey and supported by adoptive parents, Hans Hubermann (Geoffery Rush) and Rosa Hubermann (Emily Watson), Liesel tries to understand the events in Germany against the backdrop of Hitler’s rise to power and discovers reading as a means of coping; something frowned upon by the Nazis.

The film serves as an example how World War II movies can be done tastefully, bordering between art and realism. Refreshingly, the violence in the film was illustrative and not simply for pure shock value. However, this might not sit well with those who find this portrayal of Germany too gentle. While these moments are important to create context for this story, The Book Thief itself does not focus on them; instead, accentuating these parts of history without overwhelming the plot.

The dialogue is charming and the lines are filled with life. The subtle jokes are refreshing, while moving moments provide the viewer with an opportunity for self-reflection. The story champions reading and writing as a way of living; indeed, it would have been preposterous if the movie’s writing did not parallel such thinking.

Especially delightful were the performances of Sophie Nelisse and Geoffery Rush. The two worked well together navigating Nazi Germany – albeit in different generations – and their interactions gave viewers plenty to enjoy.

If there was one way the movie could be improved, it is at the end: the wrap-up was incredibly brief. If The Book Thief was a three-course meal, and you enjoyed the first two courses, brace yourself – you are only getting two minutes for dessert. It might not have been bothersome had it not been such an important part of the movie. However, for those who enjoy films with an open ending, the stolen denouement could easily be a favourite part of The Book Thief.

            — by Ria Renouf

There’s still plenty of time to see The Book Thief in theatres over the holidays, so check your local listings for showtimes near you.