Verhoeven's Spy Thriller a Winner

Cape Times (South Africa), August 17, 2007 | Go to article overview

Verhoeven's Spy Thriller a Winner


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BLACK BOOK. Directed by Paul Verhoeven, with Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, Waldemar Kobus, Derek de Lint, Christian Berkel and Dolf de Vries.

Review: KENNETH TURAN

Like many of its characters, Black Book is engaged in acts of deception.

It appears to be an old-fashioned World War 2 movie, but that turns out to be a ruse. As epic as its two-hours and 25 minute running time indicates, this film is as subversive as it is traditional, both enamoured of conventional notions of heroism and frankly contemptuous of them.

All these pleasantly dizzying contradictions, as well as the film's great energy and breakneck speed, come courtesy of director Paul Verhoeven, making his first film in his native Holland in more than 20 years and returning to the subject matter of his premier international hit, 1977's Soldier of Orange.

In the years since, Verhoeven has made quite a splash in Hollywood, directing, among others, Basic Instinct, RoboCop and the ever-notorious Showgirls. But fearful, he has said in interviews, that he was losing his soul through involvement in standard studio projects (anyone who's seen his Hollow Man will sympathise), Verhoeven reunited with his longtime Dutch collaborator, screenwriter Gerard Soeteman, in a project about a beautiful Jewish spy infiltrating the highest echelons of the Nazi occupation.

It's a project the two men have been tinkering with for decades. Now that it is on the screen, Black Book reinforces the notion that World War 2 is the subject that suits Verhoeven best. It's a canvas large enough to contain his various manias, excesses and idiosyncracies and keep them from overwhelming the story. …

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