Movie Review: The Book Thief

The Book ThiefTitle: “The Book Thief”

Director: Brian Percival

Writers: Michael Petroni

Starring: Sophie Nélisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson

My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Based on Markus Zusak’s novel of the same name, “The Book Thief” follows young Liesel, a girl in Germany during World War II, who is sent to live with adopted parents for what early on are unknown reasons. Beginning the movie illiterate, she learns to read with the help of her adopted father before a young Jewish man seeks refuge with them. She begins stealing books to read and share with her new family (although she maintains that she’s only borrowing the books), a potentially dangerous act in Nazi Germany.

Liesel’s story is narrated by Death who stalks her and those around her, which creates an interesting touch, although it feels underutilized. There was a lot more potential in using such narration. While well acted (Sophie Nélisse shows enormous promise as an actress) and it has an actual story, it falls apart in using that story to convey any message. The films seems confused about what it’s trying to say. I admit that I have not yet read the book, so I went into this movie cold. But something feels like it got lost in translation when moving from the page to the screen.

Another complaint is that the movie seems to have been made with a young adult audience in mind, much like the book. The problem here is that scenes that would be quite violent in reality are toned down to the point where they look ridiculous. For example, when a building blows up, we see the bodies of its residents lying peacefully in the street after being removed from the rubble. In reality, the scene would likely be far more gory. I understand the need to tone down images to reach a particular audience, but in this case it looked silly and yanked me out of the film.

While well acted and containing a cohesive story, “The Book Thief” still lacks meaning and imagery that truly convey the seriousness of the situation. I want to say this movie is more worth your time, but I just can’t bring myself to do so.

“The Book Thief” earns 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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