Plot: What’s it about?
Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) has endured so much suffering in recent days, as the German forces have shattered her life to pieces. She and her family were forced into seclusion when the Germans invaded Holland, but their countryside hiding spot was found and her family was slaughtered. She managed to survive, but without a family and without a life to go back to, she is consumed by vengeance. She joins up with the Dutch resistance and alters her appearance, so that she can infiltrate German headquarters and bring it down from the inside. She uses her feminine wiles to coax secrets from an officer, but a traitor without the resistance threatens to shut down the entire operation. Now unable to fully trust anyone, Rachel must walk a fine line, but can she exact her revenge or is she is over her head?
I am a big fan of Paul Verhoeven, he is one of my favorite directors and as such, I couldn’t wait to see Black Book. This is a return home of sorts, to both his native homeland and his earlier style of pictures. Verhoeven crafted a war epic that stands out as unique, it has all the typical elements of the genre, but with his own twists. He is able to inject action and thrills to keep us glued to the screen, while the romantic scenes play naturally, never forced. I am usually disappointed by how forced romances are in films of this kind, but it works here and enhances the experience. This is Verhoeven, so the romance leans toward sex and the visuals can be graphic, but nothing too controversial. The violence can be intense, but this is a war movie and as such, you have to expect higher levels of blood and violence. This movie runs almost two and a half hours, but the pace is flawless, there is minimal filler and Verhoeven makes each scene count. I found Black Book to be a good movie, fun to watch and in this Blu-ray release, we have the best possible visuals & audio, so this is the version to check out.
Video: How does it look?
Black Book is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an excellent transfer, one that is damn close to perfect. The movie has some beautiful visuals and they’re done justice, as the image is clean and clear throughout. The print has no debris or marks, softness is never a concern, and I saw no artifacts or other encoding issues. The level of detail is striking here, visuals have immense subtle detail visible, while overall depth is more than impressive. I found colors to be bright and vivid, while contrast is flawless, this is simply incredible work. I did notice a few scenes with some flat visuals, but they’re rare and this beautiful movie has been given a dynamic presentation here.
Audio: How does it sound?
The original Dutch soundtrack is here, in a slick uncompressed PCM option. The audio here is impressive, some scenes are quite remarkable and even basic sequences sound great. There is a lot of ambience and atmosphere here, so even calm scenes have a good amount of depth and presence. Of course, the scenes everyone will remember are the ones with power and they’re ample, with a lot of gunfire, explosions, and roaring engines. The attention to detail is superb, as even in the most active and loud scenes, the small touches resonate, which adds a lot to the experience. No issues with dialogue either, while music is crisp and really comes to life in this soundtrack. This disc also includes a Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 option, as well as subtitles in English, French, Hindi, and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes a lengthy promotional featurette, ,as well as Verhoeven’s audio comments. His session is more personal than technical, as he talks about his own life and the experiences he had. He touches on real life events that inspired sections of the movie and some stories of horrific violence he has heard. He does narrate at times, but overall he provides a candid session and you can tell this was a very personal project.