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May 21st, 2009, 03:23
Just saw Black Book, Paul Verhoevens first Dutch movie in decades. It's an espionage thriller playing NL near and shortly after the end of WW II.
Good movie. A lot of ambivalent characters, traitors everywhere, surprising plot twists every couple of minutes. The world is grey, not black & white.
A long list of very convincing Dutch and German actors. Especially Carice van Houten and Sebastian Koch were great. Both also played in Valkyre, I think.
The movie is long (149 min.) but never boring. It takes the time for character development and suspense between the action. Towards the end it's almost seems a bit rushed. After a good 30 minutes a couple of tragedies have happened, leading to van Houten's char to join the resistance. She becomes the SS commander's secretary. From there on things are moving fast …
Verhoeven combines the great storytelling of his early low budget movies (most with Rudger Hauer) with the visual brilliance he is known for if he has a solid budget. Here he had 18M EUR, which is nothing in Hollywood but a fortune in Europe. So the movie looks classy from start to finish. The amount of gore is low according to Verhoeven's standards. Of course there are a couple of bloody shootouts, and also a little torturing, but this time he doesn't try to redefine the scale. The R rating in the US was probably due to quite a lot of nudity. Especially van Houten shows quite a lot. Nothing shocking for a European though.

Entertaining movie with a lot of touching scenes. Quality cinema and not so far away from the mainstream as one would expect. It's refreshing to see this director stay away from calculated provocation and concentrate on solid film making. And Verhoeven simply knows how to create and hold suspense.

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