War Is Not Pretty
Starring: arice van Houten, Sebastian
Koch, Thom Hoffman, Dolf de
Vries, Peter Blok, Halina
Reijn, Waldemar Kobus, and
Derek de Lint
Runtime: 145 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Executive Producer: Graham Begg, Jamie Carmichael,
Sara Giles, Andreas Grosch,
Henning Molfenter, Andreas
Schmid, Marcus Schofer, and
Producer: Jeroen Beker, Teun Hilte, San
Fu Maltha, Jens Meurer, Jos
van der Linden, and Frans van
Writer: Gerard Soeteman and Paul
Address Comments To:Michael Barker, Tom Bernard and Marcia Bloom
Sony Pictures Classics
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
550 Madison Avenue, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 833-8833
Fax: (212) 833-8844
Web Page: www.sonyclassics.com
The movie begins in Israel in 1956 where an older Rachel recalls her time in Holland at the end of World War II and the fall of the Nazi regime. Cut to 1944, when Rachel’s safe house is bombed and she must race to reunite with her family and cross the border into liberated territory. No sooner is she with her family on the boat to freedom than Nazi officers ambush the boat and everyone is slaughtered. Rachel narrowly escapes the onslaught.
Soon, she finds herself surrounded by a team of resistance fighters who are working to infiltrate the heart of the Nazi stronghold in Holland. Dyeing her hair to hide her Jewish heritage and now working at the Gestapo headquarters, she must use every tool she has, including her sexuality, in order to survive. Not long after, she finds herself not only in the bed but also in the heart of one of the chief Gestapo officers, who quickly learns of her Jewish heritage yet decides to keep it secret because of his feelings for her.
As the members of the Resistance plan an attack, a turncoat in their team sets an ambush for them. No one can be trusted. Lies, deceit, betrayal, and treachery are the rules of the game, and Rachel must learn how to play by those rules if she is to survive.
As far as quality, BLACK BOOK is thrilling and engaging with plenty of intrigue and plot twists. The director deftly weaves together characters and sub-plots with mastery and skill.
The movie does fail in one area of the suspense. The audience’s full investment in Rachel’s peril is somewhat nullified by the fact that, at the beginning of the movie, she is safe in Israel in 1956. Thus, seeing her in dangerous situations in 1944 does not hold the gripping emotionalism of “will she or won’t she survive this?” because the audience already knows that she survives.
The content is also unfortunately hard. From strong language, graphic violence, sex, and explicit nudity, including full frontal male and female nudity, most audiences will avoid this movie. It illustrates that war and base human survival is not pretty, but the content is gratuitous and unnecessary. For these reasons, along with some anti-Semitic elements and mixed political worldviews lacking a strong moral focus, MOVIEGUIDE® must rate BLACK BOOK as excessive (Minus Three).
BLACK BOOK is thrilling and engaging, with plenty of intrigue and plot twists. It deftly weaves together characters and sub-plots with mastery and skill. The whole movie is a flashback, however, so viewers know that Rachel survives. This undercuts the movie's jeopardy. Furthermore, the movie contains lots of gratuitous, excessive foul language, graphic violence, sex, and explicit nudity, and lacks a strong, positive moral focus.