Movie Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief movie poster

As I write this review, I can tell you that The Book Thief is already generating Oscar buzz, at least from the moviegoers that have already screened it. I read the book, by Markus Zusak, when in college, and I remember liking it a lot; the film is great as well, although it moves at a rather slow pace.

World War II is almost among us, and Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse), as well as her younger brother, are taken away from their mother, a Communist, and brought to Germany via train to be adopted. Her brother does not make the journey, so she arrives alone, to find a cantakerous "Mama" (Emily Watson) and a gentle and kind Papa (Geoffrey Rush) waiting for her. She soon acquires a good friend, Rudy (Nico Liersch), and also meets the acquaintance of Max (Ben Schnetzer), a young Jewish man that her family is hiding in their basement, whom she is not to speak about to anyone. Her father is not in the Nazi party but they must act like good German citizens, for fear of Max being found out, and Liesel ends up learning about the world from both Max and the books she steals (or "borrows," as she calls it).

The lead actress in this, Nélisse, has only been in two movies prior to this one - wow! You would not know it, as she carries the movie and is a pro. Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush were fantastic as her adoptive parents, and Nico Liersch was adorable as her friend Rudy. The film is narrated by Death, which was interesting; I don't think I have ever seen a movie where Death is the narrator and is, of course, never seen - Meet Joe Black comes to mind but Death took a human form in that movie.

Yes, see this film, and be prepared to bring some Kleenex. The movie is a bit long, clocking in at about 2 hours and 11 minutes, and in my opinion, events could have been sped up a bit - but at the same time, I'm not sure where I would have done that or what scenes I could have cut. The film will definitely do well come awards season, and I'd especially like to see Nélisse or Geoffrey Rush obtain a nomination or two.

The Book Thief is currently playing in theaters, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of 131 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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