This reviewer was excited to view Paul Verhoeven's "BLACK BOOK." Especially after viewing a terrific theatrical trailer for it. Filmed mostly in the director's native language, one could reasonably expect it to blend the director's ability to combine big budget effects with a powerful, gripping narrative, more akin to his earlier WW2 film, "SOLDIER OF ORANGE" than |"TOTAL RECALL." However, upon viewing this film in theaters and now dvd and blu-ray, this reviewer feels he should be compensated "greatly" for sitting through such a pile of crap three times!
The "based on a true story" revolves around a Jewish woman hiding from the Nazis in WW2, who joins the Resistance after witnessing her entire family and others murdered in an ambush while being supposedly ferried to safety. Up until this point, "BLACK BOOK" is well made. However, immediately following this, and her joining the resistance, the film's pacing becomes sluggish, the dialogue becomes stupid, and the twists either totally predictable or out of left field. When "out of left field," it's only because it's ridiculous! Verhoeven borrows sequences from other great films, but instead of paying homage to Orson Welles, he only denigrates the master's earlier work. Soderbergh paid far greater homage to him at the end of his "THE GOOD GERMAN" film.
The idea of a Jewish woman altering her appearance to become the "perfect" object of affection to the SS, and then killing them, is intriguing, but the script offers little suspense, and far too many scenes that go nowhere and without end! As bad as it is, it keeps getting worse and the last third of the film turns into a prison breakout scene resembling "KELLY'S HEROES" more than "SCHINDLER'S LIST." It's just a horrible, horrible film!
Honestly, "HOGAN'S HEROES" dealt much more honestly with the subject matter than this film ever manages to.
SONY has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for both dvd and blu-ray formats. The dvd is also 16:9 enhanced. Colors are solid on the dvd, and the rich production values are complimented throughout. Whether on a countryside or lavish Nazi dinner affair, the depth displayed is far better than on typical dvds. However, the darker scenes, of which there are many, suffer in the detail. Blacks and grays aren't deep enough to provide the consistence of depth found in other scenes. Grain is also present sporadically throughout, but never too intrusive.
SONY has provided a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer. The image is greatly improved upon over the dvd. Colors are even more lush here and darker scenes offer stunning detail. There are a few scenes wherein the image looks flat, but these are few and far between. For the most part, "BLACK BOOK" on blu-ray looks spectacular!
SONY has provided a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for the dvd and PCM 5.1 sound for blu-ray. While the dvd offers a terrific mix, with bombastic LFE effects and non-stop surround effects, the blu-ray is "DEMONSTRATION QUALITY" throughout! The PCM mix highlights even the most subtle effects with great impact and the dynamic range is always stunning. The LFE effects are better realized here as well. Dialogue is perfectly captured, even within layers of effects. The music is also well rendered through all speakers, with even greater balance than in the theatrical showing, but still not enough to save the film from itself! At 2 1/2 hours, great sound and images still call need good pacing.
SONY has included a commentary with Paul Verhoeven. He's a guy that is immediately likeable, and his commentary is great. It's just too bad the film isn't nearly as exciting as the director, or "STARSHIP TROOPERS" for that matter.
A featurette with behind the scenes footage is included.