Happy Holiday Readers! Selamat Hari Raya Haji! If you are thinking of a lazy Wednesday in (like me) and wondering what DVD to watch.. here is a good one for you!
Before he came to America to carve out a place for himself as a well known director of science fiction (RoboCop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers, Hollow Man) and trashy thrillers (Basic Instinct, Showgirls), Paul Verhoeven had a decades-long career in Europe as the maker of powerfully raw and sexy films. More than 20 years after leaving that career to make big American films, Verheoven returned to direct (and co-write) Black Book, a Second World War-set film that’s reminiscent of some of his earlier work.
Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) is hiding in rural Holland in the final stages of the war. When her foster home is destroyed by a bomb, she is rescued by a Resistance fighter and she meets Mr Smaal (Dolf de Vries) a lawyer helping rich Jews escape. But the planned escape ends in slaughter, including Rachel’s family. She joins the Resistance and becomes involved with a high ranking SS officer Ludwig Muntze (Sebastian Koch), hoping to gather useful information. As Muntze’s conscience steers him towards an unofficial cease-fire with the Resistance, his fellow officers turn on him. Meanwhile, after a failed attempt to free Resistance fighters from the Nazi jail, Rachel is implicated as a traitor to the Resistance and her life is at great risk, as is the life of Muntze.
Did we like it?
Well, Black Book is a colourful thriller, with plenty of twists, lots of excitement, and a healthy dose of raunchy sexiness. By plenty of twists, we mean too many (the show nearly ended FIVE times) and by raunchy sexiness we mean the lead actress, Rachel, has no qualms flashing her boobs like half a dozen times throughout the movie. In some ways, it’s vintage Verhoeven, and like many of his other movies, it’s overblown, peppered with red herrings and a few too many “only in Hollywood” scenes.
That said, van Houten is great at playing the charming Rachel with great finesse and bravado. Eventhough you want to slap her sometimes for being so idiotic, she is the one character you know you can trust in the entire show. In addition, she actually sings in the movie (in her own voice), which is impressive! Be warned that the show will begin to lose credibility as the story works toward conclusion and the truth of who the true villain is, finally comes to light. It’s as if Verhoeven has a strong sense of atmosphere and can ramp up the story and action, but simply isn’t a great judge of when to stop and end the movie – he just keeps GOING ON!
As a result, the movie’s critical final scenes verge on becoming laughable, and the revelation of the identity of the bad guy will make you go huh? How on earth did he pull every evil plot off, and still be a collaborator? However.. if you look back on the movie you will notice that the traitor was indeed giving himself away all along.. (and here comes the spoilers)
In the jailbreak section, there was one scene the traitor looked at a prison door but was reluctant to open the door (because he knew there were german soldiers in it). later his accomplice unwittingly opens the door and the mayhem starts. Backtracking, it was the traitor that suggested the idea of jailbreak together with the lawyer, which turned out to be a set up. Also there is a scene where the traitor kills the german lieutenant mislead the audience. In hindsight, the show was quite brilliantly made and some thought went into the actual plot of the film.
All in all, I liked Black Book for the fact that it was overblown and incredibly exciting, fascinating, sexy, and thrilling! Watch it for Rachel’s boobs, whatever. It’s still great entertainment!