The Book Thief Movie Review

I screened this movie as a part of a press trip sponsored by Twentieth Century Fox. My extremely enthusiastic opinion is mine alone.

TBT_Still6 max and liesel

In my review of The Book Thief book (linked) —  a book I liked very much — the crux of my thoughts were, “The writing. It’s all about the writing.” I did manage to scrape together a bit about the plot and the characters and shared some information from my phone interview with the author Markus Zusak, but it was one of those books that just pulled me right in. The use of a creative narrative voice, plus a different angle to the Holocaust setting helped it rise above.

The movie — how was that going to work? Was the narrator Death still going to put his unique stamp on the movie? Which of the details that I loved in this long novel would be cut to make a two-hour movie? Here’s a brief look, but keep reading for my thoughts on the whole movie.

The writing is what left me searching for adequate words to write a book review, and for the movie, it’s the images, the acting, and the overall feel that is so very close to the lovely book.

The movie opens with that train chugging through the snow, taking Liesel and her mother and her brother to their new homes. It’s beautiful, and my heart quickened to see it. As I watched the scenes and listened to the dialogue, I found myself thinking, “Was that line in the movie?” and oftentimes I came away with the thought “If it wasn’t, it should have been!”

And that was probably my biggest takeaway from the movie. It was the beauty of a story. Books and words can help us escape. They also help us connect.

TBT_Still3 shelter

It’s also a coming-of-age story. Liesel and Rudy (see more about their story at 5 Minutes for Mom today) meet when they are ten years old. The movie covers about six years and a special friendship between these two.

TBT_Still1 running snow

I’m including some of the images here, because I can, and because they are wonderful. Are you following the Book Thief on Facebook? Seeing the images and graphics they post makes me happy. I remember the movie and the book and also look forward to seeing it again.

You still have time to read the book if you haven’t. I think that things like the intrusive narrator will be better understood and appreciated if you’ve read the book. You’ll “get” the movie if you haven’t, but the criticisms I have seen generally call attention to things that those who have loved the book would have been sad to see go, not only Death the narrator, but the fact that this is not a story about war. It’s a story about the life that goes on in spite of the hideous genocide that marked the country at that time.

Stay tuned for more coverage, including 5 Reasons to see The Book Thief movie and my roundtable interviews with Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, and the producer and director.

The movie opens November 15 in select markets, but isn’t coming to my hometown until Thanksgiving weekend.


Jennifer manages 5 Minutes for Books. When she’s not reading and reviewing, she writes about family life at Snapshot.


  1. says

    Thanks for this. I loved the book, but was also a bit skeptical about the movie. I think you’ve convinced me to see it (though in truth we only see about one movie a year out in the theater, and it’s going to be Catching Fire this year).

    • says

      I was just writing up a post at 5 Minutes for Mom for a DVD basket giveaway, and I noted in that post that I see a lot more movies “out” now than I did just a few years ago. It’s nice to be able to leave the kids again! It will happen.

      Amanda and I have plans to see Catching Fire (I was glad that she chose me as her companion), and I’m also going to take her to see the Book Thief.

      I read a few reviews before writing this one up, and some say things like it’s “Disneyfied,” but in reality the book wasn’t about the horrors of war either. Talking to Markus Zusak about his take on the book solidified that it wasn’t meant to be. I came away from the movie hating Nazis as much as ever :)

      • says

        We like to watch movies at home anyway, so it’s not a big deal. But we do have fun with our occasional grown up outings these days. We’re also thinking of seeing Ender’s Game in the theater – I’ve heard mixed things, but we both love the book.

        As for The Book Thief, I’m glad the movie stayed true to what the book was about, instead of trying to make the horrors of war more graphic – there are already plenty of movies that do that. That’s not what the Book Thief was about…

    • says

      The language is interesting. Mama is tough talking, and calls people names (which are profanities). It’s interpreted in the book at first, but then the author just uses the German words (Saumensch / Saukerl) throughout. So there’s no context to us as Americans, if that makes sense, so I didn’t think it was a problem for me or for my daughter to read it.

      I did notice that in the movie preview, she says “pig,” which is the loose translation, and she also uses the German sometimes.

      The movie definitely did not have coarse language throughout. I was almost surprised it was a PG-13, as opposed to PG, but it’s due to the “thematic elements.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge