In the darkest days of World War II, Jewish fugitives attempt to escape occupied Holland ? only to face a Nazi ambush. Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) alone survives the attack and joins the Dutch Resistance to avenge her... more » family. She soon confronts the ultimate test: she must infiltrate German headquarters by tempting Captain Ludwig M˙ntze (Sebastian Hoch). In the heat of passion, he uncovers her duplicity...but keeps her secret. Then Rachel's espionage reveals that a murderous traitor lurks within Resistance ranks. Unable to fully trust anyone, Rachel navigates a minefield of deception and becomes an enemy to both sides. Epic, passionate, breathtaking, Black Book relates an untold story of World War II where the distinctions between good and evil become blurred by the complexities of human nature.« less
I can't understand what some major reviewers hate this movie
Rowena Ravenscroft | 09/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As many here have said, this is a beautifully shot, gripping, unforgettable movie, a great addition to the honorable genre of WWII flicks. In fact, the father of one of my colleagues, Dutch himself and in his 70s, said this was the best film he has ever seen. So I don't understand why, if a man in his 70s who is from the WWII generation himself did not find this film "prurient," so many reviewers have insisted that it is. The scene that most of the prudes seem to find gratuitous is (spoiler alert) the scene in which the Jewish heroine prepares herself to pass as a blonde bombshell so she can seduce the German officer. Clearly, she is going to have to dye or shave hair other than the hair on her head in order to pass as a natural blond. The movie shows her doing this. Why is it not gratuitous? Because the scene sets up the love triangle that will result in the conflict in the last third of the movie. It is absolutely essential to the advancement of the plot, and in my opinion, any reviewer who can't see that is not only a fussy old woman, but also not much of a reviewer. So if you have not seen this movie because you've read a review that trashes it on the grounds of prurience, please reconsider. And consider this: the most recent Ang Lee movie is so sexually frank that it got an NC-17 rating, yet there hasn't been a single review which has trashed it on the basis of its gratuitous sex. That says to me that some major reviewers are only interested in criticizing Paul Verhoeven rather than commenting honestly on his film. Another reason to see this movie is Carice Van Houten. She not only convincingly plays a 40's bombshell, she has that same 40s movie-star quality that you can't take your eyes off of. Truly, you could watch this film 100 times and never get tired of her. She is irresistible."
Sexy, Smart, and Stylish Cloak And Dagger Flic in World War
Gerard D. Launay | Berkeley, California | 07/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Director Paul Verhoeven stunned the film world with his World War II masterpiece "Soldier of Orange"...and in a sense, this film is a second installment of his story of the Dutch Resistance. In the earlier film it was easier to distinguish the evil from the good...here characters are edgier and perhaps darker.
The story begins when a young, pretty Jewish woman tries to flee to Belgium from Nazi occupied Holland but her family is betrayed, massacred and robbed along with other Jewish families. After a nail-biting escape, Rachel (Carice Van Houten), joins the Resistance and agrees to infiltrate the Gestapo headquarters. Surprisingly, she becomes attached to one of the officers, and the tale begins a spin into betrayal and counterbetrayal...so that enemies and friends are very hard to distinguish.
There is a lot of old-fashioned World War II suspense and action that rolls the story along. But ultimately, this is a film about how hard it is to identify villains and heroes, when everyone is wearing a mask...including Rachel,of course - who is hiding her Jewish identity.
Overall, the film sizzles more than Soldier of Orange, but the original World War II film is still the better steak. Recommended for the high octane action, interesting plot twists, and solid historical detail."
A riveting WW II thriller set in occupied Holland
z hayes | TX | 09/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of my special interests is WW II history, especially the Nazi era, and I have watched many fact-based movies dealing with the theme. Black Book is a first-rate thriller that depicts the trials and tribulations of a young Jewish woman in Nazi-occupied Holland. Rachel Stein the lead character is played consummately by the beguiling Carice Van Houten whose facial expressions do a lot more to convey fear, vulnerability, hatred and determination than mere dialogue alone. To ensure her continued survival and escape from certain death that awaits the Jewish populace, Rachel, having suffered the loss of her brother and parents, takes on the guise of an Aryan, Ellis de Vries, and is roped by the Resistance to seduce Ludwig Muntze [Sebastian Koch] a Gestapo officer and steal Nazi secrets.
The actors in this movie are well-cast - even the Gestapo officer, whose very title should inspire revulsion is portrayed with a certain sensitivity, and he shows a semblance of humanity, a rare trait for an officer of the Reich. Even knowing Rachel's true Jewish identity, he falls hopelessly in love with her, and this is portrayed with a level of credibility given the contradictions inherent in such a pairing.
The action is fast-paced, there is much violence, and yes, even explicit sex, but through it all, nothing detracts from the plot, only serves to enhance the story, and makes this a gripping, must-see WW II thriller."
A mesmerizing espionage movie from start to finish
H. S. Wedekind | Pennsylvania, USA | 09/29/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I think the best reason to view this movie is to watch Carice van Houten as she plays the part of Rachel Stein, a Dutch Jew trying to stay alive during the Nazi occupation of Holland in 1944. Rachel is forced to assume a different identity as Ellis de Vries ( recruited by the Dutch Resistance following the betrayal and deaths of her parents and brother), even going so far as to dye her dark hair blonde to hide her Jewishness from SS Officer Ludwig Muentze in order to gain his confidence and infiltrate the Nazi HQ. Carice is incredibly convincing as the sexy ex-cabaret singer entertaining the smitten Captain Muentze, with whom she becomes infatuated, and his fellow SS officers with her 40s Bombshell looks and sweet voice.
The movie was a well-written, exciting, and suspenseful foreign language film (in Dutch, German, and English) from beginning to end. I highly recommend BLACK BOOK to anyone who enjoys good film making."
A film heroine for the ages: BLACK BOOK is an enthralling,ac
KerrLines | Baltimore,MD | 09/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Mata Hari and Greta Garbo move over; Rachel Stein a.k.a. Ellis de Vries is the new girl in town, and she is positively fearless!
Paul Verhoeven, whose American film making career gave us such films as BASIC INSTINCT and ROBO COP, has returned to his native Netherlands to co-write and direct his "piece de resistance" (literally!) in his exhilarating and relentlessly thrilling BLACK BOOK.In BLACK BOOK Verhoeven has created a Resistance fighter/spy/seductive vixen heroine for the ages in Rachel Stein.She is a one-of-a-kind, and Dutch actress Carice van Houten probably has made her most important career choice in portraying her.
Though The film begins on a Kibbutz in 1956 Israel where we meet a song singing teacher named Rachel Stein who chances upon an old friend from the War days,a former Nazi whore named Ronnie, Rachel's memory quickly takes us from the peaceful kibbutz back to the horrors of WW2 in 1944 Holland.This is where the story of Rachel Stein really begins.
As a Jewish woman in Holland, Rachel Stein has been forced into hiding with a Dutch family in order to fly under the radar of the terror of the Nazi Occupation and the compliant Dutch Police. When the family's farm is bombed ,Rachel is forced by circumstance to begin a long line of improvisations to simply stay alive.She is gorgeous,incredibly resourceful and absolutely and unapologetically opportunistic as she,instead of waiting out the War in seclusion, boldly goes forth right under the noses of the Nazis,changing her persona to Ellis de Vries,a platinum-blonde former Berlin cabaret star ,relying on her incredible female powers,beauty (and she is!) genius and courage and takes the Nazi Terror on.Ellis finds her niche with the Dutch resistance which asks her to land smack into the arms of a head Gestapo officer,Ludwig Muntze,(Sebastian Koch).She becomes the Resistance's chief spy as she plays whore to a Muntze,who falls heartily and hard for the magnificent and charming Ellis.What was simply a spy job,though,now changes drastically as Ellis and Ludwig really do fall in love.This is where the final and most difficult task lies for Ellis (and that is all this reviewer is giving away!)
Carice van Houten is an absolute rare find and no doubt the job that she so admirably does in infusing Rachel/Ellis with such depth,complexity and grit will land her all kinds of accolades and awards in the year to come.Ms van Houten takes the courageous yet fleeing Jewess Rachel and transfigures her into the ever resourceful,luminesque-Garbolike Ellis taking her into the world of roller coaster nightmares that leaves the viewer positively out of breath (and I was!)
Sebastian Koch,fresh from his sucess in the 2006 Foreign Oscar winner THE LIVES OF OTHERS is even MORE convincing as Gestapo officer Muntze in BLACK BOOK.This is an actor of such depth that coupled with van Houten and a flawless script and deft direction, BLACK BOOK is going to be hard to top for the 2007 Oscar.With such a glut of overused and underachieved American "stars",van Houten and Koch are actors' actors and hopefully will keep making smart decisions to act only the finest material under the best direction.Watching these actors makes one wonder why Americans fawn over some of the "fluff" stars we do?
What is neat about BLACK BOOK is that Verhoeven never gives the audience one minute of rest.He, though, never allows BLACK BOOK to become just another action-packed spy thriller; instead he gives us an incredibly deep and detailed story,set among the darkest days in war torn Europe that is character-rich,plot-exploding with great visual sense and style.BLACK BOOK is Verhoeven at his most mature.His last Dutch film,the 1983 thriller THE FOURTH MAN,though alright,followed by his American films,puts BLACK BOOK at the top of his distinguished directorial list.
Anne Dudley,who heretofore was known to this reviewer for her classical-style music, HYMNS ANCIENT AND MODERN, has composed a compelling and riveting soundtrack that never overtakes any of the story,but cleverly moves the action along-the chief goal of a score writer.
It is hard to believe that this film was 2 and 1/2 hours long! It flew by.BLACK BOOK is rated R and contains nudity,violence and coarse profanity.
Great companion films on WW2 Netherlands would be THE HIDING PLACE and A DAY IN OCTOBER .It seems to me that THE NAZI OFFICER'S WIFE ,which is the true story of Edith Hahn's transfiguration from hiding Jewess into a Officer's wife may well have been the "true events" that inspired the screenplay for BLACK BOOK.The similarities are uncanny making BLACK BOOK all the better for it.DO NOT MISS THIS FILM! Sebastian Koch followed up this film with THE LIVES OF OTHERS-another triumph! "