Sometimes, the greatest conflicts and clash with smaller and internal conflicts in a major way. Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) is the greatest chess player in the United States, and he is desperate to seek out the greatest players in the world. The problem is, they happen to be Russian, and with the Cold War at its height, the American government steps in to inform him that his game will be used as propaganda. This sends him down a path of introspection, as the pressure of a simple chess match holds the weight of the Cold War upon his shoulders.
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The book was great, the film not so much...
Like many films, The Book Thief is based on an internationally renown and bestselling book of the same name. Unfortunately, the cinematic adaptation hasn’t managed to translate the story in the same way its written opposite number did, and the critics are basically unanimous in their ‘nearly, but not quite’ deductions.
The Book Thief, starring Sophie Nelisse
The story sees young Liesel – a girl forced into adoption – find solace from the gruesome realities of the second world war by stealing books and sharing them with likeminded sufferers; leaning to read in the meantime.
Continue reading: Close, But No Cigar: Critics Agree That 'The Book Thief' Hits a Bum Note
While there's a strong story in here about the power of literature and the fragility of life, this movie takes a far too wistful approach, so it feels like a cheesy bedtime yarn rather than a look at horrors of Nazi Germany. As a result, it's difficult to feel the full force of either the wrenchingly emotional events or the provocative themes.
Set in 1938, the story opens as irreverent 12-year-old Leisel (Nelisse) is taken away from her mother, who is accused of being a communist. She's then adopted by the childless couple Hans and Rosa (Rush and Watson). But while the cheerful artist Hans makes her feel at home, Rosa is relentlessly harsh. Leisel also reluctantly befriends neighbour boy Rolf (Liersch) and embarks on a series of adventures, including stealing books from Nazi book-burning rallies. But the mayor's wife (Auer) doesn't mind Leisel stealing books from her library. And when Hans and Rosa take in a Jewish refugee boy (Schnetzer), he encourages Leisel to start writing her own stories.
Oddly, director Percival softens every dark element in Petroni's screenplay. The Nazis are like school playground bullies, while the Allied bombings leave buildings in rubble but dead bodies bizarrely intact and peaceful. Even the setting looks like a fairy tale, with magical snowdrifts and fanciful spires. And the strangest touch of all is the cheery voiceover narration by Death (Allam), which turns the most horrific atrocities into a kind of wry eventuality. Watching brutal murder presented as a sort of poetic justice is deeply disturbing.
Continue reading: The Book Thief Review
Liesel Meminger is a 9-year-old girl who is forced to be separated from her family for her own safety. She goes to live with another German couple, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, who treat her as if she were their own. However, settling in to a new home is less than easy and she struggles desperately from disturbed sleep. In a bid to comfort her, Hans decides to stay by her bedside every night until she falls asleep. He discovers that she is in possession of a book, 'The Gravediggers Handbook', which it turns out was stolen and Liesel is unable to read it. Hans decides to help her further by teaching her to read, an ability that is enhanced further by the arrival of a Jewish runaway named Max, who the Hubermann's agree to hide from the vigilant Nazi officers.
'The Book Thief' is based on the 2006 World War II novel of the same name by Markus Zusak and has been adapted to screen by writer Michael Petroni ('The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader', 'The Rite') and Primetime Emmy winning director Brian Percival ('The Ruby in the Smoke', 'The Old Curiosity Shop', 'A Boy Called Dad'). It is set for release in the UK on January 31st 2014.