In less accomplished hands, Black Book could have been a hopeless mishmash. But Verhoeven proves a sure-handed storyteller, which might come as a surprise, as well as a terrific visual stylist, which shouldn't.
Black Book takes the conventions of the WWII epic -- the prison breaks, the interrogation scenes -- and undermines them with craft and muscle and the ripe lack of restraint we've come to expect from this director.
The action is nonstop and often harrowing and well staged. But van Houten, while a charmer, doesn't adequately convey the disgust (and connivance) that her character would inevitably feel in such a situation.
This is a film that dearly wants to be important, that wants to do for Holland what Irene Nemirovsky's "Suite Française" does for France - examine the German occupation through a prism of painful honesty. Yet the lofty ambition comes dressed in cheap attire; Verhoeven can't seem to stop himself from shopping downmarket.
Egoli Tossell Pictures,
Motion Investment Group,
Algemene Vereniging Radio Omroep (AVRO),
VIP 4 Medienfonds,
City of The Hague,
MEDIA Programme of the European Union,
Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Fédéral Belge,