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Black Book


Stars: Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch. Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, Christian Berkel, Derek de Lint

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Although 'based on true events', this Dutch film from Hollywood-based director Paul Verhoeven presents a Jewish heroine, Rachel (van Houten) who's actually a composite of several Resistance workers from World War Two.

In a beginning, which, although it has a point to make, blunders by showing Rachel on a Fifties' kibbutz, thus eliminating any suspense over the question of whether she'll survive, she remembers the war, and a waterborne flight which ended in the massacre of her family and other wealthy Jews, catapulting her (the only survivor) into the arms of the Resistance.

Asked to sleep with a German officer (Koch) with whom she falls in love, Rachel becomes a spy at Nazi HQ - but her group is obviously being betrayed by a mole.

Van Houten, vaguely reminiscent of old Hollywood star Virginia Mayo, is a striking presence (despite having to play several scenes in the nude) and can sing as well, Despite some exciting action, though, Verhoeven often chooses to show us rather unnecessary things, and his somewhat melodramatic film is made even longer by seeming to be about to end several times before it does. A couple of these twists towards the eventual climax just don't make sense.

And sometimes gratuitous scenes of sex and violence seem more exploitative than useful to the plot. Luckily the leading lady, in and out of clothes, makes the movie always worth watching.

David Quinlan

Netherlands/UK/Germany/Belgium 2006. UK Distributor: Tartan. Colour by Kodak.
145 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 13 Jan 2007