The Book Thief (2013)

Drama, War
Roger Allam, Sophie Nélisse, Heike Makatsch, Julian Lehmann
While subjected to the horrors of World War II Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others. Under the stairs in her home, a Jewish refugee is being sheltered by her adoptive parents.
A bit too safe in its handling of its Nazi Germany setting, The Book Thief counters its constraints with a respectful tone and strong performances.
  • 20th Century Fox Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 27 Nov 2013 Released:
  • 11 Mar 2014 DVD Release:
  • $20.5M Box office:

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Simply Beautiful9/10
9.5. I'd love to give it a 10, but having read the book, I know there were a couple of things they could have done to make it even better. The film was stunning nonetheless.

I had very high expectations going in and honestly, from the trailer, I was prepared for a let down. Nothing of the sort. The scenery was breathtaking and captivating, and I felt transported, insulated from the realities of a terrible war in a terrible time by the endearingly human performances of the actors and the depth they lent to their characters.

The only complaints I have would be slight spoilers for both the movie and the book and since I highly recommend both, I'll save them.

A powerfully emotional treat you won't regret. Go see it!
WW 2 from a child's perspective9/10
Those familiar with the 2005 award winning and best-selling novel by Australian author Markus Zusak will not be disappointed with the theatrical version which differs from the book in only minor details. Both tell the story of a preadolescent girl who is adopted into a German family living in a small village in 1938, and then by following her life we get to view war on the home front for Germany. Nazi rallies, anti-Jewish pogroms, Hitler Youth groups, conscription, book burning, daylight bombing, propaganda films and posters, and the whole gamut of events are seen from her perspective.

This isn't the first film to adopt this perspective. "The Diary of Anne Frank" is the classic example, but more recently, "No Place on Earth" (2013) covered some of the same ground as did "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008) and especially "Lore" (2012).

"The Book Thief" has wonderful photography by Florian Ballhaus, an excellent musical score by Golden Globe and Oscar winning John Williams ("Schindler's List", "ET", "Star Wars"), and best of all, marvelous acting from Sophie Nelisse as the young girl, Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as her adoptive parents, and Ben Schnetzer as the Jewish boy they hide. Many of the core scenes with Nelisse, Watson, and Rush should be required viewing at any acting school.

Hats off too to young Nico Liersch who plays a boyhood friend of Nelisse.

If the film has any fault at all, it is the decision by the film makers to try to walk a fine line between drama and fable. Having "Death" as the narrator right from the start seems to suggest fable, but the story itself veers sharply to drama for most of the 2+ hours, and then, noticeably at the end, reverts to fable. Some viewers may find this disconcerting. But the power of the story and the acting generally compensate for this short coming.
Riveting, Thought-Provoking, and Powerful10/10
This is without a doubt one of the most riveting, thought-provoking, and utterly powerful movies for young people (or any people, for that matter). Unlike most movies for young people, which usually encourage selfishness, lust, and who knows what else, this is a film that promotes such qualities as self-sacrifice, courage in the face of unspeakable difficulties, and using your life to make a difference for others.

Based on Markus Zusak's novel, The Book Thief expertly tells the story of a young German girl named Liesel, who is thrust into the horrors of World War II Germany and its many complications. The scope of the story is seen through the eyes of Liesel, making it quite an intimate tale that is less about war and more about the importance of remaining human in inhuman surroundings, and affecting those around you in a positive and profound way.

The film is hauntingly beautiful, and moves at an effortless pace- not too fast, not too slow- allowing the viewers to become immersed in the realities of Liesel's situation. Lovely Sophie Nelisse is stunningly perfect in the role of Liesel, capturing both the bright-eyed innocence and the eventual world-weary quality needed for the role. Liesel's good-natured friend Rudy is also expertly and realistically portrayed by young Nico Liersch. It is a delight to watch such wonderful young actors at work. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, of course, are their usual extraordinary selves as Liesel's adoptive parents.

This is truly a movie that is not just for young people. It operates on many levels, as a commentary on the disastrous effects of World War II or a poignant tale of one small soul fighting for her own sense of humanity. While it might be a bit intense for small children, a film such as this should be mandatory viewing for older children and teenagers- a thoughtful and heart-tugging reminder of the fragility of life, and the importance of looking beyond yourself. It is the sort of film that will leave viewers young and old just a bit speechless.
Touching and warm story - for the most part7/10
For the most part, you will come out seeing this film with what you expect. "The Book Thief" takes place during the Holocaust, a subject seen in many other renowned films, but the beauty of this story comes from the perspective viewers get - that of a child's.

There is an excellent blend of different pieces that move the film along well - the violence and the intensity of the time period, the touching relationships between friends and family, and the humor they all share. Though it's nothing new, the writing and lines are still great and make the characters very likable. Performances by the entire cast, no matter how small or large a role they play, are certainly deserving of praise. Even with all the dramatic events surrounding them, it is easy to get caught in the relationship between Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as the familiar nagging parents of Liesel.

The various sets of the film - backed up with some clean, beautiful cinematography (yet nothing too astounding) - show several different parts of the town, but you are still left wanting to see more of this world. Which is where the film falls in general. For the majority of the movie, you are invested into these characters and you follow their time through WWII, and much goes on. The ending, however, comes rather quickly and you are left with that same feeling of wanting to know more. Not just of the ending, but everything before. It seems every time a moment - of suspense, of sadness, or happiness - comes, it holds on for a short while, but cuts off before you can fully take it in.

Still, the film gives a touching story to watch. The subject matter is obviously very serious, but the story of "The Book Thief" allows a wide range of people to watch this and understand, be it a young child or an adult. The characters are the best part of this film and I found them very enjoyable. The film is rather traditional and almost doesn't fit in with the rest of today's movies, but rather reminded me of many other older classics.
An Understated Classic10/10
No extended fight scenes. No unnecessary pyrotechnics. Simply a story of ordinary people conducting themselves in extraordinary fashion when faced with the hell of Hitler's Third Reich and World War II.

The literary vehicle of Death as the Narrator is a masterstroke, as is the overall emphasis of words/books/art overcoming evil.

And it's all done with compassion for children at their best and most vulnerable, and adults bypassing the convention of the era to display kindness, caring and understanding.

An understated classic, there aren't enough movies like this being produced.

And that's a damn shame.