DVD REVIEW: The Book Thief

Liesel with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Picture: PA Photo/Twentieth Century Fox

Liesel with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Picture: PA Photo/Twentieth Century Fox

First published in Entertainments

Certificate 12

131mins.

War/Drama.

Starring Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Ben Schnetzer, Nico Liersch, Rainer Bock, Barbara Auer, Levin Liam, Heike Makatsch and the voice of Roger Allam

AS tensions escalate across Germany prior to the Second World War, little Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nelisse) bids a tearful farewell to her Communist mother (Heike Makatsch) and is delivered into the care of foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson).

With encouragement from Hans, Liesel learns to read and she develops a voracious appetite for books, which is sated in secret by the mayor's wife Ilsa (Barbara Auer).

Liesel hides these visits from everyone, including her neighbour and good friend Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch), who proudly enrols in the Hitler Youth movement.

One night, a Jewish refugee called Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer) arrives at the Hubermanns' home and they offer him shelter in the basement.

Liesel becomes complicit in Max's concealment.

When school bully Franz Deutscher (Levin Liam) overhears Liesel confessing her secret to Rudy, it seems that Max's grim fate is sealed.

Based on the international bestseller of the same name by Markus Zusak, The Book Thief is a beautifully crafted story of courage and determination that compels us to care about the spunky heroine as she risks her life to protect the people she loves.

Nelisse is an endearing screen presence, whose innocence provides a glimmer of light during the darkness of the film's tense and harrowing moments.

She gels splendidly with Rush as a man of principle with a heart of gold, and Watson is imperious in opening scenes as an iron-fisted matriarch who, as Hans puts it, “isn't as strong as she looks”.

John Williams' Oscar-nominated score resonates loud and clear and is complemented by excellent production design and costumes.

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